Gotham Gazette Thu, 22 Feb 2018 21:00:02 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) 11 Special Elections Set for April 24 cuomo voting grimace

Gov. Cuomo voting (photo via The Governor's Office)

Governor Andrew Cuomo has officially called a special election to fill 11 vacant seats in the Legislature — two in the Senate and nine in the Assembly — for April 24. Of these, four vacancies are located within the five boroughs of New York City. The short races are quickly heating up to replace three former city-based state legislators who have joined the City Council -- former Assembly members Francisco Moya and Mark Gjonaj and former Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. -- and another lawmaker, Brian Kavanagh, who left the Assembly for the Senate.

While all of these seats are likely to remain in Democratic hands, the other Senate special election is in a key Westchester swing district where party control of the upper chamber -- Republicans’ last stronghold of power at the state level -- is at play. There, Senate district 37, Democrat George Latimer left a vacancy when he was elected Westchester County Executive in November.

The governor had faced pressure from Democrats to call the special elections on January 1, the earliest possible date, which would have meant March elections and winners in place to represent their districts in final budget negotiations -- a new state budget is due by April 1. But, Cuomo decided to wait, saying he did not want to inject politics into the budget process, and called the specials so they would occur in April. Winners will be seated in the Legislature in time for negotiations during the final weeks of the legislative session that ends in June.

The backdrop also features a tentative reunification deal between the Senate’s breakaway Democratic faction known as the IDC and their mainline peers -- which is only on the table if Democrats regain the requisite 32 seats to retake the majority in the 63-seat chamber before the end of the 2018 session. Winning the two Senate seats is essential, and a great deal of focus will be on the Westchester race. The IDC, which forms a ruling coalition with the Senate GOP, includes eight members, while the mainline Democratic conference currently features 21 members, and one nominal Democrat, Senator Simcha Felder, caucuses with Republicans.

In New York, special elections do not include typical primaries, with party nominees picked by party officials rather than the larger voting pool. In the city’s deep blue districts, this often means that the Democratic nominee is virtually handed the seat. Upstate, a number of GOP-held seats are likely to remain safely Republican.

A closer look at where things stand in each of the 11 legislative vacancies home to special elections April 24 -- party candidate nominations must be set with the Board of Elections by February 26.


Senate District 37 - Westchester
Since Latimer won the Westchester County Executive contest in November, unseating two-term GOP County Executive Rob Astorino, the race is heating up to fill his vacant 37th Senate District seat.

Assemblymember Shelley Mayer was chosen as the Democratic nominee for the seat -- beating out teacher and activist Kat Brezler -- in a mini-convention held by county Democratic leaders in January. Former Rye Councilmember Julie Killian, who lost a Senate race to Latimer in 2016, secured the GOP nomination in early February over former Yonkers Inspector General Dan Schorr. Republican candidate Sarmad Khojasteh had previously dropped out of the race to endorse Killian.

While Democrats have a two-to-one enrollment advantage in Westchester, the district has become a battleground in recent years. If Mayer is elected, the 90th Assembly District will be left vacant and without representation until the November 2018 election.

Senate District 32 - The Bronx
This Senate seat became available when Diaz Sr. won the election for New York City Council’s District 18, which was left vacant by term-limited Annabel Palma.

Diaz Sr., a conservative Democrat who had served the Senate’s 32nd District since 2002, easily beat several third-party candidates in the general election after a more competitive primary. Assemblymember Luis Sepulveda, a Democrat, formally declared his candidacy for the Senate seat in December and is expected to be Diaz Sr.’s successor in the overwhelmingly Democratic district. This would leave a vacancy in the 76th Assembly District.


Assembly District 39 - Queens
This position was vacated by former Assemblymember Francisco Moya, who was elected to the City Council District 21 seat in November. Moya replaced Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who decided not to run for re-election. Candidates running for Moya’s seat include Catalina Cruz, the former chief of staff for Ferreras-Copeland, and Aridia Espinal, a former Moya staffer and district leader, who has Moya’s endorsement.

Cruz has criticized the nature of special elections in New York. “Unfortunately, the special election process for the state Assembly does not allow for Democratic primary voters to decide who represents them on the Democratic Party ballot line,” Cruz said in a statement.

Assembly District 74 - Manhattan
The 74th State Assembly seat was vacated by Brian Kavanagh when selected by Democratic Committee leaders last fall to replace Dan Squadron in the State Senate. Democrat Harvey Epstein, scooping up endorsements from a slew of City Council members, Public Advocate Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer, and other Democratic power players, handily won the Democratic nod over Mike Corbett, an aide to City Council Member Costa Constantinides and president emeritus of the New York State Young Democrats, on February 12.

The New York Republican County Executive Committee unanimously endorsed Bryan Cooper for race.

Assembly District 80 - The Bronx
This seat was held by former Assemblymember Mark Gjonaj, who was elected to the City Council’s 13th District, replacing term-limited James Vacca last year.

Gjonai’s former chief of staff Nathalia Fernandez received the Democratic nomination for the Assembly’s 80th District on Thursday, paving the way for her to take the seat in April.

“Our district deserves an Assembly Member who has the experience to get things done.  My deep roots in the community and my experience has prepared me to be an effective representative on day one,” said Fernandez, who has the backing of her former boss.

Fernandez said her priorities will include improving quality of life in the district, increasing education funding in the state budget, supporting small businesses, and improving public transportation. The district includes Morris Park, Pelham Parkway, and Norwood, among other Bronx neighborhoods.

Assembly District 5 - Suffolk County
This Suffolk County seat was vacated by Republican Assemblymember Al Graf, who won his bid for district court judge in Islip in November. Graf represented the 8th District, which includes Holbrook and Stony Brook, since 2010. Like much of Suffolk County, this district is a toss up between Democrats and Republicans -- though the GOP maintains a slight advantage.

Doug Smith, a 27-year-old former aide to Graf, has secured the Republican nomination, while Democrats are searching for a new nominee after union leader Peter Zarcon received the Democratic nod, but pulled out of the race Wednesday citing “personal family concerns.”

According to Newsday, Democratic leaders say they are now interviewing Deborah Slinowsky, a former school board member who works in the Suffolk County Department of Social Services, and Jenn Hann, a legislative aide.

Assembly District 102  - Greene County
Former Republican Assemblymember Pete Lopez stepped down from his Assembly position to become a Region 2 Administrator at the United States Environmental Protection Agency in October. Schoharie Town Supervisor Christopher Tague has secured the Republican nod, beating out former Ulster County Legislature candidate Santos Lopez, while Aidan O’Connor Jr., a member of the Greene County Legislature, is the Democratic nominee. The district encompasses parts of four counties -- Albany Columbia, Greene, and Schoharie -- and has a slight Republican advantage.

Assembly 17th District - Nassau County
Former Assemblymember Thomas McKevitt, a Republican, stepped down for a seat on the Nassau County Legislature. No candidates have yet emerged. The district has a GOP advantage.

Assembly 142nd District - Buffalo Region
Michael Kearns, a Democrat who ran on the GOP line, narrowly defeated Democratic candidate and former radio host Steve Cichon, a lifelong Republican, for Erie County Clerk in the fall. While the majority of the district is Democratic, party affiliation can be complicated in Buffalo.

Erie County Legislator Patrick Burke has nabbed the Democratic nomination for this vacant seat, while the Republicans have picked a Democrat, Erik T. Bohen, as their candidate in the special election to replace Kearns.

The district includes parts of South Buffalo, Lackawanna, Seneca, and Orchard Park.

Assembly District 10 - Suffolk County
Former Republican Assemblymember Chad Lupinacci left this seat to take over as supervisor of Huntington, a seat held by Frank Petrone for 24 years. The 10th District of the Assembly, which includes large portions of Suffolk County, has a Democratic advantage.

Assembly District 107 - Rensselaer, Albany, Columbia
No candidates have emerged yet for the seat of former Assemblymember Steve McLaughlin, a Republican who left the Assembly after winning the race for Rensselaer County executive, but five Democrats and two Republicans have reportedly been interviewed by respective party leaders.

The district is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

11 Special Elections Set for April 24 Sun, 18 Feb 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Three Voting Reforms New York Must Pass This Year op ed carlucci

State Senator David Carlucci, the author

New York’s voting laws are woefully outdated and lag behind much of the rest of our country. Too many New Yorkers experience unfair and unnecessary restrictions when they wish to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Unsurprisingly, New York consistently ranks near the bottom in voter turnout when compared to other states.

According to 24/7 Wall St., an average of only 59.2% of eligible New York voters voted in the presidential elections from 2000 through 2012. That makes New York 42nd among the 50 states in voter turnout. As disappointing as these figures are, voter turnout has been even lower in midterm and state elections. This is why we need voting reform in our state.

I applaud Governor Cuomo’s 30-day budget amendment that calls for $7 million to fund early voting in counties across the state. New York is one of only 13 states that does not offer early voting, a deficiency we must change now. New Yorkers are busy, having the convenient option to go to the polls up to 12 days before Election Day means people don’t have to choose between going to work or school and voting. It is time we join the other 37 states and the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) and provide New Yorkers with access to early voting. A recent Siena College poll indicates that 65% of New Yorkers support early voting.

Automatic voter registration (AVR) is another proposal that New York should adopt. AVR allows people to be automatically registered to vote when they interact with the Department of Motor Vehicles. People would no longer have to worry about registration deadlines or application submissions. After witnessing the success of AVR in Oregon, eight other states have approved it.  No citizen should ever be denied his or her constitutional right to vote, and we should make the registration process easy and convenient. I have fought for legislation to enact AVR since 2015. This is the year to pass it.

Finally, same-day voter registration (SDR) should be enacted so eligible New York voters can register to vote the same day they go to the polls. This eliminates registration deadlines people may miss. Fifteen states and Washington, D.C. have adopted some form of SDR. In their report entitled “America Goes to the Polls 2016,” Nonprofit VOTE and the U.S. Elections Project claim that same-day voter registration “has the most discernible impact on increasing voter turnout.” These organizations estimate that since 1996, states that allow SDR have experienced voter turnout seven to 13 points higher, on average, than states without SDR. 

For too long, New York voting laws have suppressed voter turnout and have discouraged public participation in governance. I stand by the Governor’s plan to reform voting, and I encourage my fellow elected representatives to enact these proposals.

David Carlucci is the state senator representing the 38th Senate district. On Twitter @DavidCarlucci.

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Three Voting Reforms New York Must Pass This Year Tue, 13 Feb 2018 05:00:00 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, February 12 New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

Mayor Bill de Blasio will give his 2018 State of the City address this week, on Tuesday evening. The first of his second term, de Blasio is expected to talk more about his newly branded quest to make New York City “the fairest big city in America.”

Budget hearings continue in Albany this week, and the Legislature will also hold session days to introduce and pass legislation on Monday and Tuesday, before taking its usual mid-February break. The Legislature will be back in session in Albany on February 27 and 28. Then, things will get busier as March is home to many more session days leading into the April 1 start of the new fiscal year, by which time state leaders are supposed to have a new budget worked out.

There is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding that budget as Governor Andrew Cuomo continues to consider what exactly to propose in terms of overhauling the state tax system in response to the new federal tax code, which has especially significant ramifications for New York, and in terms of a congestion pricing plan for New York City. There are also top line items such as exactly how to close the state budget deficit (among other measures, Cuomo is proposing several cost-shifts and funding cuts to New York City, as well as several new taxes and fees), the structure of MTA funding responsibility, and more.

Speaking of MTA funding, Riders Alliance transit activists are leading a rally and lobby day in Albany Monday to push Governor Cuomo and legislators to pass a congestion pricing plan and fund the MTA. Several lawmakers will participate in the rally -- see below for details, and read: Transit Advocates to Storm Albany for MTA Action.

Meanwhile, in the city, the new City Council continues to hold its first committee hearings of the new term, where new chairs and members begin to hold city agencies accountable, consider legislation, and discuss important issues facing the city. There are also two full City Council “Stated Meetings” scheduled for this week, at which the Council votes on bill that have passed through committee and new bills are introduced. See details below.

And this week leads into “Caucus Weekend” in Albany, where the Black, Latino, Asian and Puerto Rican Caucus of the state Legislature hosts events and meetings, among others that will occur in the capital.

There are a variety of events to be aware of this week - see our day-by-day rundown below.

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

The run of the week in detail:

At the City Council on Monday:
--The Committee on For-Hire Vehicles will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “TLC enforcement practices.”
--The Committee on Standards and Ethics will meet at 10:30 a.m. for a rule 10.80 hearing regarding Council Member Andy King.

At the State Legislature on Monday:
--The Senate Standing Committee on Local Government will meet at 9 a.m. in Albany to “listen to local governments, local elected officials, and local government advocacy organizations regarding shared services and discuss how Albany can better partner with localities.”
--There will be a joint legislative hearing on the executive budget proposal as it relates to health and Medicaid at 10 a.m.
--The Assembly Standing Committee on Real Property Taxation will meet at 11:30 a.m. in Albany for a budget implementation hearing.

The State Legislature will be in session on Monday in Albany.

On Monday, Riders Alliance, transit advocates, and elected officials will hold a rally at 12:30 p.m. and lobby day in Albany “to demand sufficient revenue to modernize subway signals and replace cars to the State budget.” Participants will include “Assembly Corporations Committee Chair Amy Paulin, Assembly Members Carmen Arroyo, Robert Carroll, Carmen De La Rosa, Michael DenDekker, Jeffrey Dinowitz, Catherine Nolan, Luis Sepulveda, and Jo Anne Simon, and Senators Leroy Comrie, Martin Malave Dilan, Michael Gianaris, other members of the Senate and Assembly, grassroots members of the Riders Alliance.” [Read: Transit Advocates to Storm Albany for MTA Action]

The New York State Board of Regents will hold its monthly board meeting on Monday and Tuesday in Albany.

At 8 a.m. Monday, Public Advocate Letitia James and Comptroller Scott Stringer will deliver remarks at the New York Urban League Champions of Diversity (COD) Awards Breakfast. At 11:15 a.m., Stringer will host a press conference at 111 West 115th Street in Manhattan. At 1 p.m., James wll deliver remarks at the Police Athletic League Business Luncheon Honoring Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

On Monday at 9 a.m. at City Hall, “NYC taxi drivers and taxi-base owners will hold vigil at City Hall to raise awareness about TLC’s excessive fines and abusive enforcement, and in memory of recent taxi driver deaths.” “Leaders will call for action to stop the industry-wide crisis.”

At 10 a.m. Monday, Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner David Hansell will announce the expansion of ACS’ Medical Consultation Program at the Nicholas Scoppetta Children’s Center in Kips Bay.

At 10 a.m. Monday, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will outline the Women's Agenda at Mohawk Valley Council on Women and Girls Meeting in Utica. At 12:15 p.m., Hochul will discuss the FY 2019 Budget at the NYCOM Winter Legislative Meeting in Albany. At 1:15 p.m., Hochul will tour expansion plans of REDC-funded fresh produce nonprofit Capital Roots in Troy. And at 2 p.m., Hochul will tour REDC-funded Troy coworking space, Troy Innovation Garage.

At 12:30 p.m. Monday in Albany, there will be a “press conference to call on Governor Cuomo to pass progressive tax policies, invest resources to fund Assembly Member Hevesi’s proposed Home Stability Support plan and expand access to the HIV enhanced shelter allowance.” Participants who will gather at the Capitol include “members of the Albany Can End Homelessness in New York State campaign; members of the State legislature—including Assembly Members Andrew Hevesi, Michael Blake, Kimberly Jean-Pierre and others; faith leaders; and homeless New Yorkers in need of housing assistance. A crowd of about 30 will gather for this news event.”

On Monday at 3:30 p.m. in the Bronx, National Action Network is organizing a “rally at Middle School 224...where teacher was told she could not teach black history.” Participants will include “Rev. Kevin McCall, Crisis Director, National Action Network; Minister Kirsten John Foy, NE Regional Director of National Action Network; Mercedes Liriano Clarke, Teacher who was told she could not teach Black History at MS 224; National Action Network Youth Huddle; Parents and students at MS 224.

At 6 p.m. Monday, U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler will hold a congressional town hall meeting at the Rosenthal Pavilion at NYU’s Kimmel Center.

On Monday evening, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer will be among those to attend the Department of Education “Public Hearing on Health Careers and Science High School, George Washington Educational Campus.”

Mayor de Blasio will make his weekly Monday evening appearance on NY1’s Inside City Hall with host Errol Louis during the 7 and 11 p.m. hours.

At the City Council on Tuesday
--The Committee on Youth Services will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss proposed laws relating to runaway and homeless youth services.
--The Committee on General Welfare will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing “examining efforts to reduce hunger in New York City.”
--City Council Speaker Corey Johnson will deliver remarks at the beginning of both hearings.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday on the steps of City Hall, "NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, New York City Department of Transportation, elected officials, Car Free Day Partners, and environmental advocates will hold a press conference to officially announce the third annual Car Free Day NYC. Council Member Rodriguez will share more details about plans for Car Free Day this year."

At the State Legislature on Tuesday: There will be a joint legislative hearing on the executive budget proposal at it relates to mental hygiene at 9:30 a.m.

The State Legislature will be in session on Tuesday in Albany.

"The New York State Senate Majority will be holding a press conference tomorrow, February 13, 2018, at 10 a.m. in Room 124 of the Capitol in Albany to unveil a 2018 “Jobs and Opportunity” Agenda that would provide significant tax cuts for businesses, cut red tape, reduce regulatory burdens, invest in workforce development, and strengthen New York’s economic development programs. Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan will be joined by his colleagues in outlining the second part of the Senate’s “Blueprint for a Stronger New York,” an action plan that will guide the conference during upcoming budget negotiations."

"New York State Senator Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau) will be joined by survivors of sexual assault, Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria), and other legislative colleagues from both sides of the aisle for a press conference on Tuesday, February 13, 2018, at 11:30 a.m. in Room 124 of the Capitol in Albany. The event will focus on three measures currently before the houses that advance state protections and rights of sexual assault survivors: S.6428A / A.8401A- which establishes a Sexual Assault Survivor Bill of Rights and requires unreported sexual assault evidence kits be maintained for 20 years in a secure, centralized location; S.6947A – which establishes a Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) Telemedicine Pilot Program; and S.6964A – which ensures sexual assault forensic exams performed by hospitals are free of charge to the sexual assault survivor. Legislators will be joined by survivors and advocates from Rise, the Joyful Heart Foundation, and local SAFE providers."

At 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Capitol in Albany, "Senate Democrats To Announce Legislation To Reform New York’s Criminal Justice System."

"The New York State Legislature will begin the bi-partisan interview process of the New York State Board of Regents on Tuesday, February 13, 2018, at 1:30 p.m. in the Assembly Parlor, 3rd Floor Capitol, Albany."

At 9 a.m. Tuesday, the New York City Board of Corrections will meet at 9 a.m. at 125 Worth Street. [This meeting has been cancelled in light of a serious attack on a corrections officer.]

On Tuesday morning, Public Advocate Letitia James and Comptroller Scott Stringer will deliver remarks at the New York Immigration Coalition Annual City Legislative Breakfast, at Tribeca Grill.

At 5:45 p,m., James will deliver remarks at the New York National Association of Securities Professionals Foundation 20th Annual Wall Street Hall of Fame Gala, at UFT headquarters.

At 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, the New York City Board of Elections will hold a commissioners’ meeting.

At 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, "Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman will announce the takedown of a major Hudson Valley organized crime ring," at 44 South Broadway, White Plains.

At 4 p.m. Tuesday, Black Lives Matter activists will rally in front of the Department of Education to deliver a list of demands to Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, which include ending zero tolerance programs, ending “black teacher pushout,” and a mandatory K-12 black history curriculum.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, TransitCenter will host “A Bid for Better Transit,” discussing the potential benefits of competitive private contracts for operating transit systems, at One Whitehall Street in Manhattan.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Mayor de Blasio will deliver his 2018 State of the City Address at the Kings Theatre in Flatbush, Brooklyn.

The full City Council is scheduled to hold a Stated Meeting at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall. Council Speaker Corey Johnson is expected to host a press conference beforehand.

Also at the City Council on Wednesday: the Committee on Finance will meet at 10 a.m.

At 8 a.m. Wednesday, Alphonso David, Counsel to Governor Cuomo, will join Crain’s New York Business at its “Business Breakfast Forum” at the New York Athletic Club. David will discuss “the Cuomo administration budget, legislative and regulatory priorities for 2018.”

At 9 a.m. Wednesday, the Center for New York City Affairs will host “Monitoring the Minimum Wage” at the New School’s Theresa Lang Student Center, featuring local business and community leaders discussing the impacts of of the minimum wage increase and steps for stakeholders to take in adjusting. Civic Hall founder and CEO Andrew Rasiej will moderate a panel consisting of Adria Powell, President of Cooperative Home Care Associates, and Katy Gaul-Stigge, President and CEO of Goodwill Industries NYNJ.

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

At 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, the Assembly Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation, the Assembly Legislative Commission on Toxic Substances and Hazardous Wastes, and the Assembly Long Island Task Force will meet jointly at the William H. Rogers Building in Smithtown, Suffolk County for a public hearing to discuss the “impacts of the proposed federal offshore drilling authorization on New York.”

At noon Wednesday, Riders Alliance will hold a rally on the City Hall Steps calling on Mayor de Blasio to be the “bus mayor,” and to “make buses run faster on our streets for 2.5 million riders.”

At 4 p.m. Wednesday, the Civilian Complaint Review Board will hold a public board meeting.

The full City Council is scheduled to also hold a Stated Meeting at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday at City Hall. Council Speaker Corey Johnson may also host a press conference beforehand.

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, the state Senate Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction will meet at Pace University’s Pleasantville campus for a public hearing to “gather information and testimony regarding sober homes and existing regulations, or lack thereof.”

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Empire State Indivisible will host its monthly “What’s Happening in Albany” panel at the Fourth Universalist Society on the Upper West Side. This installment will focus on voting reform, with a panel consisting of Ari Berman, Mother Jones’ voting rights reporter, Susan Lerner of Common Cause/NY, Naila Awan of Demos, and State Senator Brian Benjamin.

Friday and the weekend
At 9 p.m. Friday, City & State and the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators will host a Caucus Weekend kickoff reception at the Albany Marriott.

Mayor de Blasio is expected to make his weekly appearance on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show at 10 a.m. Friday.

At 8 a.m. Saturday, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli will host the 47th Annual NYS Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators Conference at the Albany Capital Center. Honorees include Association chair Latrice Walker, Assembly sergeant-at-arms Wayne Jackson, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, 1199SEIU Secretary Treasurer Maria Castaneda, and Syracuse NAACP president Linda Brown Robinson.

Monday February 19 is Presidents’ Day, a federal holiday. Our next Week Ahead will be published that night (instead of on Sunday night).

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

by Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, February 12 Sun, 11 Feb 2018 05:00:00 +0000
State Senate’s New Sexual Harassment Policy Draws Criticism John Flanagan Senate

Senate Leader John Flanagan (photo: State Senate)

The New York State Senate leadership’s attempt to revamp its sexual harassment policy is drawing criticism from advocates and lawmakers.

Ordered by Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Republican from Long Island, the rewrite enhances protections but also adds a seemingly gratuitous line warning that falsely accusing someone is a “serious act.” It comes amid a national reckoning about workplace harassment, including in government, but also follows a claim made against one of the leading members of the state Legislature, Senator Jeff Klein. Klein, whose Independent Democratic Conference forms a ruling coalition with the Senate majority Republican conference, has vehemently denied forcibly kissing a staff member outside a bar in 2015.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the only female leader of a state legislative conference, expressed dismay at the changes in a statement, saying that the warning to false accusers is evidence that the Senate leadership is not serious about combating sexual harassment.

“To emphasize the punishment for filing a false report while not emphasizing the seriousness of sexual harassment is exactly the type of intimidation that has silenced so many through the years and encourages perpetrators to attack accusers,” said Stewart-Cousins.

Other criticisms of the document center around its use of the word "may" rather than "shall" in places, weak anti-retaliation language, and its failure to designate an independent person to report misconduct to.

These seeming gaps are drawing questions about the motivation for the policy rewrite and who was involved in drafting it. Spokespersons for the Republican conference and the IDC did not respond to a requests for comment on the matter, but Senate Democrats, three of whom serve on the Senate ethics committee, said they were not consulted.

“It just showed up in my staff email two nights ago... I don’t think I even got a direct copy,” said Senator Liz Krueger, who is known for her outspokenness on sexual harassment, during a recent appearance on The Capitol Pressroom radio show. “We could have told them everything that was wrong with it, but no one sought [our advice] in advance.”

An attorney who is frequently contracted to investigate discrimination and harassment claims involving the Senate, said she also had not been consulted, having not seen the documents until Gotham Gazette sent them to her.

“I learned about the new policy when I read about it in the newspaper,” said Pearl Zuchlewski, founding partner of Kraus & Zuchlewski LLP, which has been paid $198,485 by the Senate to investigate personnel claims in 2016 and 2017, according to New York State Comptroller records.

Senate Republicans stand behind the policy change, with a spokesperson saying that “the Senate has taken a strong policy and made it even stronger” and noting that the new version adds more examples of what constitutes sexual harassment, giving employees the ability to report an incident directly to the Senate's personnel officer and making clear that retaliation will not be tolerated.

“The false complaint provision that is being referenced by Senator Stewart-Cousins existed previously and has not been changed in any meaningful way. It is and always has been wrong to make a false complaint,” said Maureen Wren, a spokesperson for Senate Republicans.

While Wren would not provide details of who was involved in drafting, editing, and approving the new harassment policy, Flanagan has repeatedly said recently that he hired an outside firm to work on it, but much remains mysterious about the process.

"I asked for an independent review, we hired outside counsel, we strengthened what we do already in the Senate. I was proud of the work that we did before, we took what we did and just made it better," Flanagan said during a question-and-answer session of a Crain’s New York Business appearance January 25. “Everyone should feel comfortable in their work environment,” he added.

One of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State proposals, which reflects similar legislation proposed by Assembly Member Sandra Galef, aims to create a uniform sexual harassment policy for all government employees, including all three branches of state government.

Currently, the Senate policy covers complaints made against employees of the Senate and the Assembly’s policy covers complaints made against Assembly members and staff, with specific protocol depending on whether a complaint is made against someone working at the Legislature or in district offices. The state’s Joint Committee on Public Ethics, which is made up of Cuomo and legislative appointees, can also investigate a misconduct complaint on its own or with a formal referral from a government entity. Cuomo has proposed adding resources to JCOPE so that it can more quickly and ably conduct misconduct investigations.

Klein asked JCOPE to investigate the claim against him and has indicated such an investigation is underway. Flanagan said the Senate would not investigate because the accuser, Erica Vladimer, had not made a formal complaint within the body.

There are parts of the Senate policy that now more closely resemble the Assembly’s sexual harassment policy, last updated in 2014 after a major scandal, which is a 13-page document widely seen as a gold standard for sexual harassment policies in government.

For example, the section that recommends complainants first communicate their discomfort to the offending party and ask that the behavior stop, now mirrors an italicized line in the Assembly policy emphasizes that while “self help” is recommended it is not required. Another amendment that reflects the Assembly policy, specifies that the claim that alleged misconduct “meant no harm” or was “just a joke” is not an excuse.

However, if the impetus for the policy change was to create more parity between the two legislative houses, a side-by-side reading of the Senate and Assembly sexual harassment policies suggests there is still a long way to go, according to Alexis Grenell, a frequent commentator on government reform and gender issues, and a Democratic political consultant.

"The Senate policy is a weak imitation of the Assembly version, which is much closer to model language and includes no such warning against false reporting,” said Grenell. “No one wants to be sexually harassed or put themselves through the added stress of an investigation, which is why false reporting is so unusual. It's a red herring problem intended to discourage reporting."

The Senate’s new policy also adds a number of protected categories like creed, color, military status, familial status, predisposed genetic characteristics, and domestic violence victim status, but omits gender identity and expression, as noted by Senator Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat.

“I would call it a glaring omission -- a real statement as to the values and priorities of the Senate majority,” said Hoylman, noting that statistically transgender people of all groups are most likely to be targeted in hate crimes.

Hoylman is the prime sponsor of GENDA, or the Gender Expression Nondiscrimination Act -- which seeks to extend sex discrimination protections to people discriminated against on the basis of gender identity, expression, or transgender status -- but the Senate majority has prevented the bill from reaching the floor.

Many of the gaps cited in the old policy remain in the new version. For example, while the Assembly policy instructs complainants to report incidents to an independent counsel that has been retained, the Senate policy does not provide this avenue for individuals to report misconduct.

Senate complainants are still instructed to report incidents to an immediate supervisor or the immediate supervisor of the offender, the appropriate department head, or to his or her appointing authority.

If the complaint concerns any of those officials, or the complainant is uncomfortable making a report to any of these individuals, he or she may go to the Senate Personnel Officer, or the Secretary of the Senate.

“The concept that you should somehow first report it up the line internal to your office, when the line always goes to a senator, and/or then go to the staff of the majority leader -- also a senator, who frankly has even more reason to want to protect members and the ‘institution’ -- is just wrong,” said Krueger on Capitol Pressroom.

“I actually think this new policy is worse than the old policy and I don’t understand how in 2018 people don’t understand what the problem is and how we can address it,” said Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat.

When describing who will conduct the investigation should one unfold, the language in the Senate policy leaves up to the discretion of Senate leadership whether to hire an independent investigator, by using the word “may” rather than “shall.”

Despite that language, Republicans say that sexual harassment complaints within the Senate are handled independently and that it has been the practice for years.

By contrast, the Assembly policy indicates that the investigation “shall” be conducted by outside lawyers retained by the Assembly, and offers more detail for protecting the confidentiality of all parties involved as well as witnesses interviewed.

“Once you get into the question of what’s going to happen if there is a problem, this policy is not nearly as strong and clear as it needs to be,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of reform group Common Cause, on The Capitol Pressroom last week, speaking with Senator Krueger with host Susan Arbetter.

Other changes to the Senate policy include the addition of a 30-day time limit for both the accused and the accuser to appeal a decision.

The Assembly policy, which also includes a 30 day appeal time limit, has also been praised for taking steps to protect the privacy of accusers when they come forward and ensuring that they do not face retaliation by specifying harsh penalties for such behavior. The Senate’s two-paragraph anti-retaliation section is less specific.

The Assembly approach is not without question. In late 2017, Republican Assemblymember Steve McLaughlin was sanctioned by the Assembly ethics committee for allegedly asking a female Assembly aide for nude photos, lying about it, and then leaking her name to colleagues in the Legislature. At the time, questions were raised about the length of time it took for the investigation to unfold, as by the time McLaughlin faced disciplinary action, he was already on his way out of the Assembly, having been elected Rensselaer County Executive earlier that month.

by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

State Senate’s New Sexual Harassment Policy Draws Criticism Tue, 06 Feb 2018 05:00:00 +0000
This Must Be The Year For The New York Dream Act, A Game-Changer For Immigrant Youth Like Me dream act presser mtr

The author at a press conference in Albany for the Dream Act

On Monday the New York State Assembly passed the New York Dream Act. For immigrant youth like me, this legislation would be a game-changer.

I am a Dreamer. I came to this country at the age of two from Mexico. I am an American through and through. I have worked hard to get ahead. I’ve excelled in school. Without state tuition assistance, I worked throughout college to be able to pay tuition and other costs. Finally, last year, I graduated from City College. It was harder than it should have been, because I couldn’t get financial aid. Still, I overcame the obstacles.

But others face even harder situations. Too many undocumented students graduate from public high schools every year only to face the reality of not being able to go to college because they can’t get financial aid. It’s bad for immigrant youth, and it’s bad for New York, which loses out on having more future doctors, lawyers, teachers, and nurses—and the additional tax revenue that these professionals bring to our state. New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has found that Dreamers who obtain a bachelor’s degree would each pay more than $60,000 in additional state taxes over their working lives, which is far more than the maximum $20,000 state financial assistance that eligible students can get for that degree.

By passing the Dream Act today, members of the Assembly have shown once again that they understand the struggles that undocumented youth like me face. And we’re grateful to Speaker Carl Heastie, bill sponsor Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa, and City Councilmember Francisco Moya, who led the work on this bill for many years when in the state Legislature.

The Assembly believes what I believe: everyone deserves equal access to college. It’s why I’ve worked for years to organize with other students like me at City College and Make the Road New York to pass the Dream Act. And it’s why today is a critical day in our fight for equality.

Now, we need to make sure this bill becomes law. We know that this fight won’t be easy. We know that conservative State Senators have blocked this bill before, and that many will spread misinformation about it once again to block our progress. But we’re committed to finally passing our bill in both chambers of the Legislature, and to have it signed by Governor Cuomo, who says he supports it.

With Donald Trump in the White House, we’re living in a new time—with mounting attacks from Washington against immigrant youth and families. And, in this time, it’s up to New York to take bold action to offer protection and equal opportunity for all. The Dream Act is a critical way for our state to lead the way in defense of immigrant communities.

Immigrant youth like me are Americans in everything but paper. We go to school here, our families and communities are here. New York should finally pass the Dream Act to ensure that we are treated like the rest of our peers—and that the doors of colleges and universities across this state are open to us.

Yatziri Tovar is a Dreamer and Media Specialist with Make the Road New York, the largest grassroots community organization in New York offering services and organizing the immigrant community. On Twitter: @YatziriTovar & @MaketheRoadNY.

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

This Must Be The Year For The New York Dream Act, A Game-Changer For Immigrant Youth Like Me Tue, 06 Feb 2018 02:35:24 +0000
Transit Advocates to Storm Albany for MTA Action riders fix the subway sign

(photo: @RidersNY)

With the “summer of hell” in the past and sustained heat on Governor Andrew Cuomo to fix the long-neglected subway system, one of New York City’s most prominent straphanger advocacy groups will travel to Albany to demand action from Cuomo and the state Legislature.

Riders Alliance members will go to the state capital on Monday, February 12, to rally, garner media attention, and meet with lawmakers, hoping to push Cuomo and the Legislature to pass a new long-term funding mechanism for repairing, maintaining, and improving the New York City subway system. That funding mechanism is encapsulated in the report put forth by the “Fix NYC” panel, put together by Cuomo, which recommended a congestion pricing scheme to reduce the gridlock in Manhattan streets and produce around $1.5 billion annually to help fund the MTA.

The recommendations from the group, published with a three-year phase-in, are now the subject of negotiations between Cuomo, legislators, and other stakeholders and the governor has promised action beyond the MTA’s emergency Subway Action Plan and eyes a deal in the new state budget, due by the April 1 start to next fiscal year.

This past Thursday, Riders Alliance held its first organizing meeting, attended by about 45 people, since the governor unveiled his executive budget in mid-January. Participants discussed organizing tactics, reviewed the Fix NYC plan, and planned for the Albany lobbying day, according to a spokesperson for Riders Alliance, which has continued to gain prominence as the subway crisis has come into greater relief over the past year.

The meeting, which was closed to members of the media, also touched upon members’ stories about the MTA’s poor service and the effect that’s having on their lives, the spokesperson said.

Reema Hijazi, a Riders Alliance member and C-train rider from Clinton Hill, told Gotham Gazette that she was inspired to attend the organizing meeting by a recent incident where she was stuck on a platform for 45 minutes after her train suddenly turned express mid-commute, forcing her to disembark, while she watched five express A trains and a not-in-service C train pass by before a helpful train showed up.

“I spend more time underground than living my life,” Hijazi said. She will be participating in the February 12 lobbying day.

The governor’s budget proposal includes the Subway Action Plan, put forth by MTA Chair Joe Lhota and intended to finance crucial immediate repairs and stabilize the beleaguered system. Cuomo, in his budget, re-committed the $429 million he had previously pledged, a little more than half the $836 million required by the plan. The budget calls on New York City to put up the funds for the rest of the plan, but Mayor Bill de Blasio has been unwilling to do so, saying for months that the city and MTA riders are already putting plenty of money into the MTA, which is not spending the money wisely. De Blasio also regularly cites the $400-plus million that the state has moved from MTA funds toward other transportation projects, saying the state should give that money back to the MTA to pay for the rest of the action plan. The mayor’s recently unveiled preliminary budget proposal does not include any money towards the Subway Action Plan.

Riders Alliance, however, is thinking more long-term. The group is backing the Fix NYC congestion pricing proposal and will be lobbying legislators to support it. The Subway Action Plan is being funded by a mix of capital funds, legal settlement funds, and funds from a transfer of the Payroll Mobility Tax to the MTA. Riders Alliance argues that this kind of funding scheme is unsustainable, no matter the state-city contribution formula.

“The Fix NYC proposal would provide the MTA with the sustainable revenue it would need to fix the subway,” said Rebecca Bailin, Riders Alliance campaign manager. “The Subway Action Plan does not include a long-term plan or funding source necessary to do what is required to end the cycle of delays, overcrowding and meltdowns.”

Bailin said that Cuomo, “who runs the MTA, is the most powerful person in the budget process in Albany,” placing the onus on him to establish a new funding formula for the MTA, which has a capital plan that both the city and state already contribute to and is regularly adjusted, with major expenditures voted on by the MTA board, where the governor has the most appointees and the mayor has a handful. Any solid congestion pricing plan would create a congestion zone in Manhattan that drivers are charged extra to enter. The Fix NYC panel calls for different car and truck tolls, while also adding surcharges for taxis and for-hire vehicles rides through companies like Uber and Lyft.

Riders Alliance supports de Blasio’s “millionaires tax” proposal, which would add a surcharge to high-income New York City earners and put the revenue directly toward the MTA and subsidizing reduced-fair MetroCards for low-income individuals, but takes the position that the Fix NYC plan is the top priority for sustainably funding the MTA. With the governor’s backing, congestion pricing appears to have a much better chance of passing in the state budget. Cuomo has not expressed support for a tax hike on top earners. Both proposals face skepticism in the Republican-controlled state Senate, while the Democrat-controlled Assembly is supportive of the millionaires tax and has not shown a clear majority position on the new congestion pricing recommendations.

The mayor has in part pushed the “millionaires tax” instead of getting on board with congestion pricing because of a concern that congestion charges would amount to a regressive tax on poor outer-borough car commuters, but the Fix NYC panel noted that census data shows only 4 percent of outer-borough residents drive into Manhattan for work. The Community Service Society found similar results.

The Riders Alliance activists -- who have been supported in recent months by several elected officials, including State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblymember Bobby Carroll, and City Council Member Brad Lander -- will hold a rally and speak with legislators to win support for enshrining a congestion pricing plan into the state budget. Although they will attempt to win over any legislator they can, they will focus on lobbying New York City legislators, they said. The governor's sustained commitment to congestion pricing remains the group's main objective, however, as they acknowledge the reality of Cuomo’s immense power to push through the policy items he prioritizes.

Lobbying days in Albany, a fairly common occurrence as interest groups seek to influence the government process, often appear to have little effect, but Riders Alliance members are more confident than ever that legislators will listen to them now.

“The difference this year is that this is the first time that I think Albany is starting to recognize the transit crisis,” Bailin said. “And, this is the first time in the Riders Alliance’s history that the governor is starting to talk about a sustainable revenue source to fix it.”

by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Transit Advocates to Storm Albany for MTA Action Sun, 04 Feb 2018 05:00:00 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, February 5 New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

This week will start off with a bang as Mayor Bill de Blasio makes his annual journey to Albany to testify at a legislative budget hearing. De Blasio has several issues with the executive budget proposal put forth in January by Governor Andrew Cuomo, his fellow Democrat and frequent sparring partner. De Blasio will make clear his state legislative and budget priorities for the year, and answers questions from members of the Senate and Assembly about those priorities, his record, city use of state funds, and whatever other matters they choose to raise.

De Blasio is expected to reiterate at least some of the priorities he outlined early this year, while also pushing back against Cuomo's budget proposals to cut certain funding to the city, provide less-than-expected education aid to the city, shift certain costs to the city, and require the city pay more for the MTA. The mayor discussed some of those budget issues when he released his own preliminary budget on Thursday of this past week. De Blasio is expected to either address outright or be asked about congestion pricing and where he stands on the recommendations put forth by Cuomo's "Fix NYC" panel, which the mayor has given a warmer reception than the general concept of congestion pricing in comments prior to the panel's report.

The Legislature will hold four days of budget hearings this week in Albany, while the two houses will hold legislative session on only Monday and Tuesday.

On Tuesday in the city, the newly empowered City Council Committee on Oversight and Investigation will hold its first hearing under new Speaker Corey Johnson and new committe Chair Ritchie Torres. The subject will be NYCHA, with a focus on heat for tenants. Council Member Alicka Samuel, the chair of the Council's public housing committee, which Torres chaired last term, will also lead the hearing. Johnson, Torres, Samuel, and others Council members are expected to heavily criticize NYCHA leadership and demand more answers about rcent heat outages and how NYCHA is responding to tenants' conditions. [Hear Torres talk about his new role in this recent episode of the Max & Murphy Podcast]

As always, there's a number of events to be aware of this week - see our day-by-day rundown below.

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

The run of the week in detail:

The State Legislature will be in session on Monday in Albany.

At the State Legislature on Monday, there will be a joint legislative hearing on the executive budget proposal relating to local governments at 10 a.m. Mayor de Blasio will be among those testifying, and he will appear first. [Read: De Blasio Lays Out Initial 2018 Albany Priorities]

Comptroller Scott Stringer and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson will also testify at the state budget hearing.

At 10 a.m. Monday, Johnson will speak at the Helen Hayes Theatre ribbon cutting ceremony on West 44th Street.

On Monday, VOCAL-NY will host its 2018 “Hepatitis C Elimination Legislative Awareness Day” in Albany.

At 9 a.m. Monday, U.S. Reps. Joe Crowley, Carolyn Maloney, and Ro Khanna will deliver remarks at a tech training session hosted by Google and Goodwill at the Goodwill facility in Astoria.

On Monday "at 11:30 AM, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams will join New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) tenants impacted by the citywide heating crisis that left thousands in the cold this winter, as he calls on NYCHA to take actions to address challenges facing its underfunded capital program, namely a commitment to spend its recent and future fuel cost savings on emergency boiler repairs and conversions. According to a Citizens Budget Commission (CBC) study, NYCHA utility costs fell by $48 million from 2013 to 2016, largely due to lower natural gas prices as buildings were converted from oil to natural gas heating systems. Borough President Adams will advocate for this revenue stream to go directly toward more conversions so this cost savings can increase, creating a virtuous cycle of support for NYCHA."

At 1 p.m. Monday at the State Capitol, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie will hold a “press conference regarding the DREAM Act. He will be joined by members of the Assembly Majority and advocates,” in the Speaker's Conference Room.

At 1:30 p.m. Monday in the State Capitol, "advocates, community leaders, and elected officials will gather to unveil a progressive revenue package that would raise $16 billion for New York. They will call on Governor Cuomo and the state legislature to pass this revenue package, and discuss how and why it will benefit all New Yorkers. The progressive revenue package would raise enough to close the current budget deficit, offset looming federal budget cuts from Washington, and fund major new investments in jobs and infrastructure, including the MTA." Participants will include "members of labor unions, community groups, and advocacy organizations; elected officials from the state legislature, including Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry."

At 6:30 p.m. Monday, the Brooklyn Historical Society will host “Urban Health, Urban Parks,” discussing “the positive impact of city parks on the health of urban dwellers.” Panelists will include Prospect Park Alliance president Sue Donoghue, New York Times columnist Jane Brody, and author Florence Williams. CityLab’s Laura Bliss will moderate.

Mayor de Blasio will make his weekly appearance on NY1's Inside City Hall Monday evening in the 7 and 11 p.m. hours. He'll also appear on the upstate Capitol Tonight news progam in the 8 p.m. hour.

The State Legislature will be in session on Tuesday in Albany.

At the State Legislature on Tuesday
--There will be a joint legislative hearing on the executive budget proposal relating to human services at 10 a.m.
--The Senate Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction will meet at 5 p.m. at Binghamton University’s Innovative Technologies Complex to “examine the issues facing communities in the wake of increased heroin abuse.”

At the City Council on Tuesday:
--The Committees on Public Housing and Oversight & Investigations will meet jointly at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “chronic heat and water failures in NYCHA housing.” Council Speaker Corey Johnson has pledged to participate in the entire hearing.
--The Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting, and Maritime Uses will meet at noon.
--The Committee on Economic Development will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “NYCEDC 2018 and Beyond: Borough-by-Borough in the Next Four Years.”
--The Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions, and Concessions will meet at 2 p.m.

On Tuesday the New York City Charter School Center and the Northeast Charter Schools Network will host a lobbying day in Albany at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center, demanding “funding equity for all public school students, and the elimination of the arbitrary cap on charter schools in New York.”

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, TransitCenter will host “Is It Rigged” at One Whitehall Street in Lower Manhattan, discussing the highly-inflated cost of transit construction in New York as compared to other cities. The panel will feature Brian Rosenthal of the New York Times, Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute, Rich Barone of the Regional Plan Association, and Chris Ward of Metro NY.

At the State Legislature on Wednesday, there will be a joint legislative hearing on the executive budget proposal relating to environmental conservation at 9:30 a.m.

At the City Council on Wednesday:
--The Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet at 9:30 a.m.
--The Committee on Standards and Ethics will meet at 11 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “section 10.80 of the Council Rules.”
--The Committee on Public Safety will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing “examining NYPD crowd control and protest procedures.”

On Wednesday, WE ACT for Environmental Justice will hold a lobbying day in Albany “to demand Governor Cuomo commits to 100% renewables and a fee on corporate climate polluters.”

At the State Legislature on Thursday, there will be a joint legislative hearing on the executive budget proposal relating to taxes at 9:30 a.m.

At the City Council on Thursday:
--The Committee on Higher Education will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “hiring a new chancellor and college president at the City University of New York.”
--The Committee on Fire and Emergency Management will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “diversity in the FDNY.”
--The Committee on Land Use will meet at 11 a.m.

“The next public meeting of the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB) will be held on Thursday, February 8, at 10:00 AM.”

At 6 p.m. Thursday, the Association for a Better New York will host Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor, for a “What’s On Tap” talk at the Anheuser-Busch offices in Chelsea.

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

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

by Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, February 5 Sun, 04 Feb 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Flanagan Provides Few Answers to Big Questions John Flanagan State Senate

John Flanagan at Crain's breakfast (Ben Max/Gotham Gazette)

State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan spoke publicly for nearly an hour Thursday morning in Manhattan, but said little on a variety of pressing topics. The Long Island Republican and key player in negotiations of the state budget and a variety of other legislative matters of great significance to New York City provided some indication of where he stands, but repeatedly gave evasive and unclear statements on issues related to housing, construction, economic development, and congestion pricing.

Flanagan was appearing at a breakfast forum hosted by Crain’s New York Business, where he gave a brief speech that appeared improvised, then answered questions from two journalists, all in front of a crowd of about 150 at the New York Athletic Club. Flanagan rarely spoke in complete thoughts, at times providing confusing anecdotes or referencing people in the room, and at one point admitting, “I feel like my mind is racing, jumping all over the place.”

Flanagan’s appearance came just a few weeks into the 2018 legislative session in Albany, where he is one of the three most powerful individuals, along with Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. The three are also joined in top-level negotiations by Senator Jeff Klein, who leads the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference, a group of breakaway Democrats that forms a ruling coalition with Flanagan’s Republican conference. Flanagan had kind words for all three of the other men when he spoke on Thursday.

The four must negotiate a budget by the April 1 start of the new fiscal year, and discussions were jump-started by Cuomo’s presentation of his State of the State policy agenda and $168 billion Executive Budget plan. There are no shortage of key fiscal and policy matters on the table this year, headlined by the need to respond to the new federal tax code that President Donald Trump signed into law just before Christmas and the $4.4 billion budget deficit the state is facing for the coming fiscal year.

Flanagan discussed both those topics and a variety of others, both in his opening remarks and during the question-and-answer session with Crain’s’ Erik Engquist and Ken Lovett of The Daily News.

In his opening, Flanagan called New York City “the economic engine for the state” and explained that his conference is focused on “affordability, opportunity, security,” which includes trying to lower or cap taxes, create jobs, and keep people from moving out of the state. He said he continues to believe New York City should be subject to the 2 percent annual cap on property tax increases that applies to the rest of the state. “I don't think the model that’s in the City of New York right now, frankly, is sustainable,” Flanagan said of property tax increases.

As Cuomo has floated possible alterations to the state tax system in an effort to blunt the impact of federal reforms that are likely to raise taxes on many New Yorkers due to the loss of most state and local tax deductibility from federal taxes, Flanagan said he is especially leery of shifting personal income taxes to payroll taxes, as the governor has discussed as an option.

“Just the whole notion of payroll tax scares me and my colleagues,” Flanagan said. “But I want to be clear that we are ready, willing, and able to work with the governor on all types of issues. And in this instance when you talk about something like that, I will give the governor credit for raising a thorny, difficult, challenging issue. But when people talk about how you want to shift something to an employer to try to help an employee, honestly I don’t know how that works.”

Flanagan added, as he did on several issues raised throughout the morning, that he and his colleagues will “conference” the issue, meaning that the narrow Republican majority will hold closed-doors discussions to come to their collective stance.

On congestion pricing, another especially hot topic of late where Cuomo is pushing reform, Flanagan was less cogent. In his opening remarks he said that many people may not know what congestion pricing is and that it is important to consider all stakeholders. He again gave Cuomo credit for tackling a tough issue and said he’d talk it over with his conference. He acknowledged “how hard it is just to traverse the city,” saying he used to worry about traffic coming from Long Island to Manhattan, but now it’s much more difficult to just move through the borough. He said there’s no enforcement of drivers “blocking the box,” an issue raised by Cuomo’s “Fix NYC” panel that recently released its recommendations, which will form the basis of negotiations on the topic. Mayor de Blasio, as part of a congestion-fighting plan released last year, vowed greater cracking down on blocking the box and double-parking.

Flanagan talked about his state-issued vehicle and E-ZPass, and said that many New Yorkers with the electronic toll-paying devices have become “jaded to a degree because nobody thinks about it anymore. Your account gets replenished, you don't really know unless someone tells you there's something wrong with your debit card or your credit card. And I know I've had that happen to me, but I think about working people, can they afford that?”

During the Q-and-A, Flanagan was asked again about congestion pricing. He said on New York City-related issues he often defers to the three members of his conference who represent parts of the city: Senators Andrew Lanza, Marty Golden, and Simcha Felder, a conservative Democrat who caucuses with Republicans. He agreed that Lanza, of Staten Island, probably disliked the Fix NYC recommendations because they did not include lowering the toll on the Verrazano Bridge. Though he has previously expressed a good deal of concern about adding new fees for entering Manhattan, likely to cost Long Island drivers, he said Thursday, “When someone asks me about congestion pricing, I don't want to gratuitously say ‘no’ because we have not conferenced this.”

Later in the Q-and-A, Flanagan said he’s glad there is now a framework put forward by the governor’s commission, apparently unaware that there had been a comprehensive plan put forth years ago by the Move New York coalition that is similar to what Fix NYC created. “I remember a couple of months ago people saying to me, ‘What do you think about congestion pricing?’ I don't know what it is; ‘cause there was no plan. Now at least we get something to be looking at and this is why it's actually very helpful for what I do,” Flanagan said Thursday.

When asked about closing the state budget deficit, Flanagan downplayed the issue, repeatedly calling the $4.4 billion estimate “fluid.”

“I’m gonna look at this cup right here, ‘United,’” Flanagan said, referring to the cup holding his beverage on the lectern branded by one of the event sponsors. “I’m sure the people at United change their plans on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually based on a variety of things and facts, so the State of New York, when someone says there's a deficit or a structural deficit or out-year deficit, that's been going on for like 30 years. It's not a new thing. The gravity of the number or the severity of the number is different.”

He said he believes that federal tax reform will spur more revenue for New York. “I think we're gonna have more money coming I think it eradicates $4.4 billion? Probably not. But I think we're gonna have more money coming in. Think about Wall Street and the stock market -- what are people gonna do there? I think we're gonna generate more revenue based on bonuses and things of that nature. That number, it’s not static. It's something that we have to adapt to all the time.”

Flanagan has not offered his plan for closing the deficit, but his conference will at some point put forward their budget vision.

On economic development, Flanagan said he is opposed to the governor’s Regional Economic Development Councils because they pit regions against each other and don’t offer everyone the same resources. He said the state has too many regulations, stifling businesses.

“I think we have to do a massive overhaul of our regulatory structure in the state of New York. I've said this time and time again, we should do a cost-benefit analysis on every existing regulation. And we have to take a harder look when things like minimum wage, paid family leave, predictable scheduling, all those types of things are being discussed, because that's real life. I have grave concerns about the continued prosperous and economic viability of the City of New York because of a lot of things that are being proposed and some that are being implemented now.” He did not elaborate on what those policies are that he fears are dooming the city.

Flanagan appeared unprepared to discuss trimming costs at the MTA, seemingly unfamiliar by issues raised by a recent New York Times series.

He reiterated positions on government ethics, saying that issues with corruption in government make him “sick,” but that “the system is actually working. There's someone gets in trouble, someone gets indicted, someone goes to trial, someone gets convicted and has to serve time or something like that. I wish there were none of this. I truly wish that there was none of this, it’s not good. I think we have in the last five to seven years, we've made very significant change.”

Flanagan indicated that he has taken steps in the Senate to enhance policies on sexual harassment and that it is a positive development that Senator Klein has sought an independent investigation into a recent allegation by a former staff aide that the IDC leader forcibly kissed her at an after-work gather in 2015.

Flanagan did not give clear answers when asked about modifying the state’s Airbnb restrictions; altering statutes of limitation around child sex abuse claims; or repealing limits on the sizes of residential buildings.

When asked why the state would not grant New York City government permission to use design-build, a process for streamlining construction project bidding and execution that has saved the state billions of dollars, Flanagan was evasive. “First of all we have helped the City of New York,” Flanagan said. “We’ve definitely helped the City of New York. Just because the city may come and ask for everything, doesn’t mean they’re gonna get it.” [Related: Cuomo Omits Design-Build for New York City from Budget Proposal]

Asked about the state blocking New York City from instituting a five-cent fee on plastic carryout bags, Flanagan became especially animated. “I think the bag fee is just idiotic,” he said. “And I care about the environment as much as anybody sitting in this room.” Flanagan said part of why he had helped kill the city’s law, passed by the City Council and signed by the mayor, was because the fee would have gone to the retailer, not to an environmental cause. He did not acknowledge that the purpose of the fee was to reduce plastic bag use or that the fee mechanism was used by the city because the state controls taxes, so the city had gotten creative in assessing a fee that had to be collected by the business.

Moving from policy to politics, Flanagan was asked about this year’s elections, wherein all the statewide positions and every seat in the Legislature will be on the ballot. Is he concerned about a “blue wave” and the possible loss of the state Senate majority, which is Republicans’ last stronghold at the state level?

“If there is a hint of arrogance that comes with this, I'll apologize for that in advance,” Flanagan said. “We’re not going to lose. We're not going to lose.”

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Flanagan Provides Few Answers to Big Questions Thu, 25 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
2018 Will Be a Busy, Contentious Election Year in New York election polling place Brooklyn

a polling place (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)

This year will be another busy, contentious election year for New Yorkers. While 2017 saw the majority of elections confined to local government, 2018 will see three election days and races for state-level offices, including five of six statewide positions and all of the state Legislature, and all of the state’s delegation to the House of Representatives.

A fourth election day may occur in some districts if Governor Andrew Cuomo calls a special election to fill 11 currently vacant state Senate and Assembly seats before the regularly-scheduled votes this fall. Cuomo could have called the special election as early as January 1 but has waited to do so, leaving those 11 districts with less than full representation.

Aside from those potential special elections and depending on political party affiliation, New Yorkers will be able to vote in the federal primaries on June 26; the state primaries on September 11; and Election Day November 6. Only those registered with a party can vote in party primaries in New York, but the November general elections are open to all registered voters. So-called “independent” voters -- those registered to vote but not with a party -- cannot participate in party primaries, nor can those registered with parties wherein primaries are not being decided.

In 2016 there was an unsuccessful push to combine the congressional and state primaries to a single date, which ensured four election days given it was a presidential year and that primary was in April. There is a good chance there will be a similar push this year to combine primary dates, but while Democrats have sought to move the state primaries to June, Republicans have suggested an August date, leaving the sides at an impasse.

Along with all the 27 New York House seats, which are elected every two years, one of New York’s two United State Senate seats, elected every six years, is on the ballot this year -- the one currently held by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. At the state government level, the four statewide posts of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Comptroller are all on the ballot in their four-year cycle, as well as the every-two-year elections of all 150 seats in the state Assembly and all 63 seats in the state Senate.

In New York, this year’s deadlines for candidates to file for federal office is April 12 and for state offices, July 12.

Another macro issue to watch ahead of this year’s elections is voting reform in New York. There is an ongoing push to see early voting passed, among other reforms like same-day registration and no-excuse absentee voting. While Cuomo, a Democrat, and the Democrat-controlled Assembly support such reforms, Republicans who control the state Senate do not.

2018 Federal Elections in New York
While Gillibrand is up for reelection this year, New York’s other U.S. Senator, Charles Schumer, won reelection in 2016 and won’t be on the ballot again until 2022. Gillibrand served in the House of Representatives from 2007 to 2009 before being appointed to the Senate in 2009, and winning a special election in 2010, to fill Hillary Clinton’s vacant seat when she was appointed Secretary of State. Gillibrand went on to win the regularly-scheduled 2012 election for the seat as well and is now running for her second full term as a senator. She is rumored as a possible 2020 presidential candidate. It is unclear who Republicans will run against her this year in New York.

In the House, New York and national Democrats are eyeing several seats to help flip control of the chamber through the 2018 elections. As of January 2018, the House is composed of 238 Republicans and 193 Democrats, with 4 vacancies.

Given Republican President Donald Trump’s record unpopularity, which is especially acute in his home state of New York; recent Democratic electoral wins in New York and elsewhere; and historical trends whereby a new president’s party loses congressional seats in the midterm elections, many are expecting a Democratic wave in 2018, with the potential for flipping the House and possibly the Senate.

Democrats’ “red to blue” campaign across the country will include multiple New York districts while local party activists may target others. Governor Cuomo, himself seeking a third term this year, has promised a campaign to flip six New York House seats after their officeholders have supported legislation Cuomo deems detrimental to New York. Cuomo joined House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats at a June 2017 rally in Manhattan to kick off a campaign to unseat Reps. Lee Zeldin (CD1), Chris Collins (CD27), John Faso (CD19), Elise Stefanik (CD21), Claudia Tenney (CD22), and Tom Reed (CD23).

The national Democratic Party is currently prioritizing two of those New York Congressional Districts, the 11th and the 22nd. Rep. Donovan currently represents the 11th, which includes all of Staten Island and some of Brooklyn. Max Rose is seen as the Democrats’ best chance to unseat Donovan in November, though Donovan also must first survivie a primary challenge by former Rep. Michael Grimm, who resigned from Congress after pleading guilty to tax evasion charges. Rep. Tenney represents the 22nd, sitting just east of Syracuse and including Binghamton, Cortland, and Utica, and the Democratic Party is apparently behind Anthony Brindisi, a state Assembly member.

New York’s 19th Congressional District, currently represented by Faso, is expected to be a toss up. Faso won a hotly contested 2016 race against Democrat Zephyr Teachout. The Hudson Valley seat is likely to again be home to a great deal of political spending.

The 24th Congressional District may also be home to a strong challenge to a sitting Republican. Syracuse’s recently-former mayor Stephanie Miner, a Democrat, has hinted at potentially challenging current Rep. Katko. The Democratic Party’s “red to blue” campaign lists the district in its efforts as well but has not found a candidate to support yet.

In the other direction, in early February 2017 the National Republican Congressional Committee released it’s Democratic targets for the 2018 elections. The list contained references to two New York Democrats: Tom Suozzi, who represents Congressional District 3 in the north and western portion of Nassau County, Long Island and Sean Patrick Maloney, who represents the 18th Congressional District containing Poughkeepsie, Woodbury, and Newburgh.

Aside from the Grimm-Donovan primary, there may be a handful of other intraparty challenges to sitting representatives worth watching. Rep. Joe Crowley of Queens, for example, is being challenged from the left by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. While Ocasio-Cortez faces very long odds, she may be able to at least make Crowley pay more attention to his home district than his larger ambitions and agenda.

2018 State-Level Elections in New York
As mentioned, 2018 is an election year for the four state-level statewide positions of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Comptroller. All four posts are held by Democrats expected to seek another term.

Governor Cuomo was first elected to the position in 2010 and won reelection in 2014. While Bob Duffy was Cuomo’s first-term Lieutenant Governor, he declined to run for reelection in 2014 and Cuomo chose Kathy Hochul as his running mate. She has said she is running again. Candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor can run as a slate, but they are elected separately in party primaries, then together in the general election. Cuomo and Hochul may have to each survive Democratic primary challengers before they can rejoin as a ticket for the general election.

The Lieutenant Governor’s role is similar to the Vice President of the United States. The LG is President of the State Senate and acts as Governor in the Governor’s absence from the state, in the case of severe disability, death, impeachment, or resignation from office. Otherwise it is a largely ceremonial position often seen as a cheerleader for the governor and the administration’s policies. Hochul often represents the Cuomo administration at events across the state, and has taken the lead on certain issues, such as co-chairing a recent task force put together by Cuomo on women’s opportunity.

It is unclear who Republicans will nominate for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, but GOP leadership has indicated it wants to avoid a primary. Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb has launched a gubernatorial campaign on the Republican side. Meanwhile, several minor parties will also put forward candidates. Democratic challengers to Cuomo and Hochul have begun to emerge, with former State Senator Terry Gibson aggressively testing the gubernatorial waters and New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams opening an exploratory committee to run for LG.

New York State’s Attorney General is also up for election in 2018. Eric Schneiderman first won election to the office of Attorney General in 2010. He would go on to win reelection in 2014. The Attorney General will be running for his third term in 2018 should he seek reelection. Schneiderman has been in the news a lot lately for his frequent lawsuits on behalf of New York against the Trump Administration and its policies.

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is also expected to run for reelection this year. Dinapoli was first appointed to the position in 2007 after the resignation of Alan Hevesi. He would go on to win election to the Comptroller’s Office in 2010 and 2014. The Comptroller is tasked with managing the state’s enormous pension fund, auditing state agencies and local governments, and reviewing state and local budgets.

All 63 seats in the state Senate will be on the ballot this fall. Unlike the Assembly, control of the Senate will be at stake, with several swing districts at play. There is currently a complicated and contentious breakdown of power in the Senate, where Republicans hold 31 seats, but have a majority because of nine Democrats -- Brooklyn Senator Simcha Felder conferences with the GOP while the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference forms a ruling coalition with that Republican conference.

Mainline and Independent Democrats reached a tentative deal in late 2017 to begin to work together in the State Senate, but only on a number of conditions, including winning the two special elections for currently vacant seats. The empty seat in the Bronx is all but a lock, while the empty Westchester seat will be closer to a toss-up. Felder’s status is not completely clear in terms of what he will do -- he has always maintained he’ll take the best deal for him and his constituents.

Complicating things is grassroots anger at members of the IDC, whereby several if not all IDC members will be facing primary challenges. IDC Leader Jeff Klein of the Bronx (SD34), Jesse Hamilton of Brooklyn (SD20), Jose Peralta of Queens (SD13), and Marisol Alcantara of Manhattan (SD31) are among those members already facing primary challenges.

Meanwhile, there are somewhere around a half-dozen swing districts to watch outside New York City, and one potential swing district within the five boroughs -- the Brooklyn seat currently held by Senator Martin Golden. The expected Democratic wave could lead to several seats switching hands, though local races can turn on different issues and long-time incumbents like Golden can be very difficult to beat. Districts on Long Island and in the suburbs just north of New York City are often more likely to change hands, while New York City and other large cities around the state are overwhelmingly represented by Democrats and upstate areas outside of other major cities are heavily Republican.

All 150 state Assembly seats are up for election in 2018. The chamber is heavily Democratic, with a current partisan split of 103 Democrats, 37 Republicans, one Independence Party member, and the nine vacancies.

With all that is happening in other races, especially those for Governor and in key House and state Senate swing districts, there will likely be little attention paid to most Assembly races this year.

There will be other local elections in 2018, including local school board and trial court judicial elections, among others.

by Matthew Sweeney, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

2018 Will Be a Busy, Contentious Election Year in New York Mon, 22 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, January 22 New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

This week, all eyes are on Washington D.C. as the federal government shut down Saturday after Democrats and Republicans failed to come to an agreement over government spending. The key issue in the shutdown fight is immigration reform and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that allows undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to avoid deportation and to receive work permits. Democrats are advocating for an extension of the program, which was abruptly ended by President Donald Trump, while Republicans have sought more funding for border security and refuse to discuss DACA until the government reopens. No deal was reached between the two sides as of Sunday evening.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo reached a deal with federal authorities to reopen the Statue of Liberty which had closed down on Saturday amid the shutdown. Many other sites that fall under the jurisdiction of the National Parks Service remained closed, however. 

In Albany this week, the New York state legislature will continue to deal with the governor's 2018 agenda as they pick apart the $168.2 billion executive budget proposal that he released last week. Prominent items on the agenda include a congestion pricing proposal, details of which were put forward on Friday by a state task force convened by Cuomo, and proposed changes to the state taxation system to deal with the federal tax overhaul passed in December. There's likely to be heavy scrutiny of the governor's proposals to close a $4.4 billion budget gap faced by the state.  

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will likely be watching the state budget closely as he readies to release his own preliminary budget proposal for the 2019 fiscal year, which is due by February 1. The mayor is scheduled to testify at a budget hearing of the state Legislature on February 5. On Monday, de Blasio will attend a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Recording Academy's New York office and will appear on NY1's Inside City Hall in the evening. 

Also on Monday, the corruption trial of Joseph Percoco, a top Cuomo aide, along with three others is set to begin in federal court in Manhattan. Percoco and his co-defendants face charges of bribery and bid-rigging in relation to upstate economic development contracts awarded by the state. Their trial is expected to last between four and six weeks. Although Cuomo himself has not been accused of any wrongdoing in the case, the trial will put the spotlight on his administration at a time when he is headed into a reelection this year and is seen as positioning himself for a potential presidential run in 2020.   

As always, there's a great deal happening all over the city, with many events to be aware of - see our day-by-day rundown below.

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

The run of the week in detail:

Mayor de Blasio will attend and deliver remarks at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Recording Academy’s New York office at 10 a.m. Monday in Manhattan. In the 7 and 10 p.m. hours, de Blasio will appear on NY1’s Inside City Hall.

The New York State Legislature will be in session on Monday in Albany.

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

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

At 12:30 p.m. Monday, Civic Hall and Streetlives will welcome RDJ Refugee Shelter and immigrant community partners for “a discussion on homelessness and housing from the perspective of refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers.”

On Monday afternoon, Governor Cuomo "will travel to Park City, Utah to attend a screening of RX Early Breast Cancer Detection. He will leave to return to the New York City area in the evening."

At 2 p.m. Monday, the New York City Tax Commission, Center for New York City Law, and Center for Real Estate Studies will host a workshop on 2018 property taxes in New York at New York Law School. Tax Commission President Ellen Hoffmann will deliver remarks.

At 6 p.m. Monday, U.S. Rep Jerrold Nadler will hold a congressional town hall meeting at NYU’s Vanderbilt Hall in Greenwich Village.

At 6 p.m. Monday, U.S. Rep Tom Reed will hold a congressional town hall meeting at the Middlesex Fire House in Middlesex, Yates County.

At 6 p.m. Monday, the Business Council of New York State will host its 2018 “Legislators’ Reception” at the Albany Capital Center, allowing Business Council members a chance to “mingle with members of the New York State Legislature and top New York State government officials.”

At 6 p.m. Monday, the New York City Bar Association will host “Rebuilding Puerto Rico: Strategies, Partners, and the Role of the Oversight Board,” discussing how Puerto Rico can rebuild after the devastating hurricane and protracted fiscal crisis that have affected the island.

Monday night is the annual "HOPE" count of homeless people on New York City streets.

The New York State Legislature will be in session on Tuesday in Albany.

At the State Legislature on Tuesday: There will be a joint legislative hearing on the executive budget proposal as it relates to higher education at 9:30 a.m.

At the City Council on Tuesday:
- The Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet at 9:30 a.m.
- The Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting, and Maritime Uses will meet at 11 a.m.
- The Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions, and Concessions will meet at 1 p.m.

Tuesday is Let NY Vote’s “Albany Action Day.” Proponents of election reform will gather at the State Capitol at noon for a rally demanding reforms such as early voting, followed by “lobby visits.”

On Tuesday at 9:30 a.m., Comptroller Scott Stringer will host a "Manhattan Workforce Forum" at Strive International, on East 122nd Street. At 6:30 p.m., Stringer will receive "“Honorary Haitian Award” at Hatian Roundtable 2018 Haitian Independence Reception and Special Recognition Awards."

At 10 a.m. Tuesday in Albany, state Senate Democrats will "announce legislation to protect and expand New Yorkers’ voting rights." The press conference will be led by Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Senator Brian Kavanagh, ranking member on the Senate Elections Committee, and members of the New York State Senate Democratic Conference.

On Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. outside of Tweed Courthouse, "leaders of the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council (CPAC), representing all the PTAs and Parent Associations at NYC public schools, along with the leaders of the Education Council Consortium, representing the elected and appointed members of the Community and Citywide Education Councils, will speak and release letters to Mayor de Blasio, demanding that he give parents a voice in the selection of a new Chancellor, as he promised to do when he first ran for Mayor."

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

At 11 a.m. Tuesday, "Mayor de Blasio and First Lady McCray will make an announcement about the opioid epidemic" at the Latino Pastoral Action Center on 170th Street in the Bronx. The mayor will take press questions.

At 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, the New York City Board of Elections will hold a commissioners’ meeting.

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, U.S. Rep Hakeem Jeffries will deliver his 2018 State of the District speech for the New York’s 8th Congressional District at Brooklyn Technical High School. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson is among those who will attend.

At 8 a.m. Wednesday, the Citizens Budget Commission and the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism will host “How Bad Is It? Implications of the Federal Tax Bill for New York” at the CUNY J-School in Midtown. Robert Mujica, Director of the New York State Division of the Budget, and Dean Fuleihan, First Deputy Mayor of New York, will deliver opening remarks. Following these remarks, two panels consisting of government officials, advocates, and business leaders will convene to discuss the fiscal impacts on the state and the best responses at the state and local level.

At the State Legislature on Wednesday:
- There will be a joint legislative hearing on the executive budget proposal as it relates to housing at 9:30 a.m.
- The Senate Standing Committee on Racing, Gaming, and Wagering will meet at 11 a.m. in Albany to “discuss the potential of sports betting in New York State.”
- There will be a joint legislative hearing on the executive budget proposal as it relates to workforce development at 2:30 p.m.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, the MTA will hold its monthly board meeting. Committees will meet on Monday.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, the Panel for Educational Policy will hold a public meeting at P.S. 20 in Manhattan.

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Museum of the City of New York will host a screening of Chisholm ‘72: Unbought & Unbossed, detailing the presidential campaign of the first black woman to run, Shirley Chisholm. Afterwards, the film’s director, Shola Lynch, will discuss “Chisholm’s lasting legacy” with former DNC Chair Donna Brazile and U.S. Rep Yvette Clarke, who currently holds the seat Chisholm once held.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, U.S. Rep Tom Suozzi will host a town hall meeting for the third congressional district at the Dix Hills Jewish Center in Dix Hills, Suffolk County.

At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, NYCLU will host “Flights and Rights -- Voting Rights” at the Flatiron Lounge in Manhattan, discussing the 2018 elections from a framing of civil and voting rights. The discussion will be led by NYCLU’s Erika Lorshbough.

At the State Legislature on Thursday: There will be a joint legislative hearing on the executive budget proposal as it relates to transportation at 9:30 a.m.

At the City Council on Thursday: The Committee on Land Use will meet at 11 a.m.

At 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Crain’s New York Business will host State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan at its first 2018 “Business Breakfast Forum,” at the New York Athletic Club. Flanagan “will discuss senate politics, fixing the transit system, and his priorities for the legislative session” with moderators Erik Engquist of Crain’s and Ken Lovett of the New York Daily News.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, the New York City Bar Association will host “Wiping the Slate Clean: New York’s New Law on Sealing Criminal Records,” discussing the effects of the new state law allowing people to have state conviction records sealed in certain circumstances. Panelists will include Marta Nelson, Executive Director of the New York State Council on Community Reentry and Reintregration; Emma Goodman, of the Legal Aid Society; and Wesley Caines, of the Bronx Defenders. The panel will be moderated by Judith Whiting of the Community Service Society.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, Civic Hall, NYC Open Data Team, HPD, and the Department of Buildings will host a workshop on city buildings.

On Thursday evening, City Council Member Debi Rose will deliver a state of the district address on Staten Island.

Friday and the weekend
At 10 a.m. Friday, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will deliver her 2018 State of the Borough address at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts High School in Astoria.

At noon Sunday, Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou will hold a town hall meeting at the Manny Cantor Center on the Lower East Side.

At noon Sunday, Staten Island Borough President Jimmy Oddo will host “Direct Connect Sunday” at the Petrides School in Todt Hill, Staten Island.

At 1 p.m. Sunday, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson will be inaugurated in a ceremony at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Chelsea.

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

by Ben Brachfeld and Samar Khurshid

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, January 22 Sun, 21 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000