Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

Citizens Union



The Week Ahead in New York Politics, September 25

New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

Mayor Bill de Blasio had a busy weekend, speaking at several events on Saturday and Sunday, wearing governmental and campaign hats at different times. De Blasio will hold City Hall in Your Borough this week in Manhattan, with many top administration personnel working out of an upper Manhattan space at NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem. This will be de Blasio’s fourth City Hall in Your Borough week, with only Brooklyn still left. Several events have already been announced, while others will become apparent day by day when advisories are made public -- see below for some details, including two evening town halls and a constituent resource fair.

Governor Andrew Cuomo continued his recent focus on storm devastation in the Caribbean this weekend. The governor toured Puerto Rico after having previously gone to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Cuomo held several briefings about the Puerto Rico crisis and made an announcement about New York aid on Sunday in Manhattan, with celebrities and other partners. De Blasio also coordinated a city response to the devastation in Puerto Rico, sending city personnel to assist both before and after the island was hit by Hurricane Maria, along with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is from Puerto Rico.

Along with continued storm response efforts and the northern Manhattan-based City Hall in Your Borough programming, is is a very busy week in New York politics. See below for a full day-by-day rundown, including a variety of City Council hearings and much more.

  ***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:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.***

The run of the week in detail:

At the City Council on Monday:
--The Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet at 9:30 a.m.
--The Committee on Transportation will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing on “taxi medallion values,” and to discuss a proposed law “to create a task force to study taxicab medallion values.”
--The Committee on Environmental Protection will meet at 1 p.m. to discuss proposed laws relating to “public access to noise mitigation plans” and “responses to noise complaints,” as well as to discuss a resolution “calling on the United States Congress to pass and the President to sign legislation that would require the Federal Aviation Administration to reduce the threshold for what constitutes a significant noise impact.”
--The Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions, and Concessions will meet at 1 p.m.

De Blasio will begin City Hall in Your Borough Manhattan week with three public events: he'll appear live on The Danny Jones Show on 580 AM at 9:15 a.m. At 10 a.m., "the Mayor will hold a photo spray before a cabinet meeting." And at 1 p.m., "the Mayor will make an announcement regarding the City parks system" at Joseph Sauer Park.

The de Blasio administration has other events happening to start Manhattan week: At 10 a.m. "Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair Srinivasan, New York Landmarks Foundation Chair Davis, Senator Benjamin, Council Member Perkins and community groups will unveil the Mount Morris Park Historic District Marker, commemorating the history of a neighborhood that was home to a number of prominent black residents." At 120th Street between Lenox and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard. "After, Social Services Commissioner Banks and Acting Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs Mostofi will visit a legal clinic, where providers from Catholic Charities will be taking appointments from Dreamers ahead of the October 5 renewal deadline." "The Department of Consumer Affairs, Mayor's Office of International Affairs, and Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs table at the Colombian Consulate to distribute information to immigrants about rights and City resources." At 1 p.m., "Commissioner for the Aging Corrado will host motion activity event and informational for Falls Prevention Awareness Day." At 2:15 p.m., "Mayor’s Office of Strategic Partnerships Director Fialkoff, Mayor’s Fund Executive Director Bloch, and NYC Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity Director Klein will visit one of the 15 community-based organizations integrating the Connections to Care model for mental health supports into their work." And at 2:30 p.m., "Deputy Mayor Herminia Palacio, Social Services Commissioner Banks and Mayor’s Food Policy Office Director Turk host a press conference about the success of La Puerta Estrecha’s Washington Heights food pantry as part of the NYC Food Assistance Collaborative program to increase food assistance by 10 million pounds a year in 12 high-need neighborhoods."

At 8:30 a.m. Monday, the Board of New York City School Support Services will hold a public meeting at 321 West 44th St.

At 9 a.m. Monday, schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña will deliver a keynote address at the NY State School Board Association Leadership Summit in Saratoga Springs. At 6 p.m., she will attend a receivership hearing at August Martin High School in Queens.

On Monday morning at Criminal Court in Manhattan, “Reform Party mayoral candidate Sal Albanese will act as Reform Party Chairman Curtis Sliwa’s attorney...as Sliwa must answer a desk appearance ticket in New York  Criminal Court for his arrest in July as he tried to personally serve Mayor de Blasio with legal papers at Gracie Mansion.  Sliwa was serving the papers in response to efforts by Mayor de Blasio and others to have Albanese thrown off the ballot.”

At 10:30 a.m. Monday, Governor Cuomo will deliver remarks at the Business Council of New York State's Annual Meeting in Bolton Landing.

“On Monday, September 25, 2017 at 11:00 am in front of the proposed Riverside Galleria project near the intersection of Arthur Kill Road and Richmond Valley Road, Borough President James S. Oddo will discuss the latest example of a project that does not comply with General City Law 36, and why this could have a major impact on traffic along the Arthur Kill Road corridor and end his support for the project.”

On Monday at 11 a.m. “Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, U.S. Congressman Adriano Espaillat, NY State Senator Marisol Alcantara, NY State Assembly Member Carmen de la Rosa, and Fidel F. Del Valle, Commissioner and Chief Administrative Law Judge of the NYC Office of Administrative Trials & Hearings (OATH) will hold a press conference to announce an upcoming educational event for Upper Manhattan residents and business owners which will focus on how to respond to summonses from regulatory and law enforcement agencies in New York City.” Both the press conference and the educational event they are announcing will take place at the YM&YWHA ("the Y") of Washington Heights & Inwood, with the educational event Tuesday from 6-8 p.m.

On Monday at 1 p.m. at City Hall, ""Puerto Rican activists, members of Hedge Clippers and elected officials are calling on a moratorium to debt payments to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority known as PREPA after the devastation left by Hurricane Maria. Members of the community in NY are asking that the safety of Puerto Ricans be put before any payments to creditors." Participants will include State Senator Gustavo Rivera and Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ Service Employees International Union.

At 5 p.m. Monday, NYC Indivisible will hold a “Rally to Save the ACA,” joining Indivisible groups nationwide to urge the senate to vote against the newest effort in congress to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

At 6:30 p.m. Monday, Citizens Union and the New York Law School will host a panel discussion on the New York Constitutional Convention, “Process and Possibilities.” The panelists will include Art Chang, of the Sanctuary State Project; Danielle DeMatteo, of Forward March NY; Ross Sandler, of the New York Law School; and Brandon West, of New Kings Democrats.

Tuesday is National Voter Registration Day. Agencies and advocacy groups will be holding voter registration drives throughout the city.

NYC Votes will hold a press conference on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. with YMCA to announce “a full roster of events in partnership with the YMCA of Greater New York and other organizations to celebrate National Voter Registration Day (NVRD)...Other organizations joining these efforts include the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Human Resources Administration, the New York Public Interest Research Group, Dominicanos USA, the League of Women Voters of New York City and the City University of New York.” The press conference will occur at the McBurney YMCA, 125 West 14th Street.

At the City Council on Tuesday:
--The Committee on Contracts will meet at 9:30 a.m. to discuss a proposed law “requiring city agencies to accept procurement invoices electronically.”
--The Committee on Finance will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss a proposed law relating to “notice of the recording of certain real estate instruments,” as well as a resolution “calling upon the New York State Legislature to pass and the Governor to sign legislation to require all real property conveyances to be memorialized by a deed recorded in the office of the clerk of the county where such real property is situated.”
--The Committee on Health will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing on “The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Compliance with Local Law 37: Pesticide Use by City Agencies.” The committee will also discuss a resolution “recognizing September as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in New York City,” and several proposed laws relating to regulation of “non-tobacco smoking products” and on “the use of pesticides by city agencies.”
--The Committee on Land Use will meet at 11 a.m.
--The Committee on Recovery and Resiliency will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing on “Build It Back Enrollment.”
--The Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing on “High Rise Fires And What New York City Can Learn From the London Tragedy.”

At 8 a.m. Tuesday, City & State will host “Achieving 30% Aspirational MWBE Goals” at the NYU Kimmel Center. City & State editor in chief Jon Lentz will moderate a panel consisting of Jonnel Doris, Director of the Mayor’s Office of MWBE; Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the Department Small Business Services; Council Member Robert Cornegy; Wendy Garcia, Chief Diversity Officer for the Comptroller’s Office; and Charles E. Williams III, a partner at Peckar & Abramson.

At 11 a.m. Tuesday, the Senate Standing Committee on Consumer Protection will meet in Albany “to investigate how best to protect consumers, such as seniors and internet users, from the theft of their personal information” in the wake of the Equifax breach.

At noon Tuesday, Crain’s will host its 2017 “50 Most Powerful Women in New York” luncheon at Cipriani 42nd St. Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen will deliver opening remarks. Afterward, there will be a panel consisting of Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor; Cathy Engelbert, CEO of Deloitte US; Dr. Laura Forese, Executive Vice President and COO of New York Presbyterian; and Sheena Wright, President and CEO of United Way of NYC.

At 1 p.m. Tuesday, the Assembly Standing Committee on Labor will meet in Albany “to examine New York State’s Workers’ Compensation Permanency Impairment Guidelines.”

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, City Council Member Donovan Richards will join the Association for a Better New York for its “What’s on Tap” series at District Social in Midtown.

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Manhattan College will host a debate on whether to hold a constitutional convention. The debate will be between Arthur Schwartz, an election law attorney who supports the convention, and John O’Malley, the legislation director for CWA and who opposes the convention.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Mayor de Blasio will hold a town hall meeting at the High School of Art and Design in East Midtown with City Council Member Dan Garodnick, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Liz Krueger, and Assemblymember Dan Quart.

The full City Council will hold a stated meeting at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, prefaced by a press conference by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Also at the City Council on Wednesday: the Committee on Finance will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss resolutions “approving the new designation and changes in the designation of certain organizations to receive funding in the Expense Budget,” and concerning the “increase in the annual expenditure” for several business improvement districts and the logistics of hearings for proposed laws increasing annual expenditures for these BIDs.

At 11 a.m. Wednesday at City Hall, "Council Member Constantinides, joined in support by health and environmental advocacy organizations, announces the introduction of his legislative package to raise awareness of asthma. The bills raise awareness of asthma prevalence through annual reports, as well as increase availability of treatment for children with asthma."

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, the MTA will hold a public board meeting.

At 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Mayor de Blasio and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer will host a resource fair at the Malcolm X Center in Harlem as part of its Upper Manhattan installment of City Hall in your Borough. From 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., “Top representatives from City Hall, the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs, the Department of Transportation, Department of Finance, NYPD, Economic Development Corporation, Department of Education, Department of Health, Small Business Services, Department of Parks and Recreation, among others, will be available to answer Manhattan residents’ questions.”

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, the Panel for Educational Policy will hold a public meeting at the High School for Fashion Industries in Chelsea.

At the City Council on Thursday:
--The Committees on Youth Services and General Welfare will meet jointly at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing on “safe and accessible shelters for homeless youth” and to discuss several proposed laws relating to homeless services for “runaway and homeless youth.”
--The Committee on Civil Rights will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing “examining the rise in discriminatory harassment claims received by the Commission on Human Rights.”
--The Committee on Governmental Operations will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “Agency Responses to Failures to Pay Civil Penalties: The Implementation of Local Law 47 of 2016.”

At 8 a.m. Thursday, City & State will host “On Sustainability” at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. The event will “gather leaders in sustainability, energy, government, advocacy and business to discuss the green initiatives in New York, reducing the carbon footprint, water resiliency and protection, zero food waste and more.” Editor-in-chief Jon Lentz will moderate a “keynote commissioners panel” consisting of Rick Chandler, of the Department of Buildings; Kathryn Garcia, of the Department of Sanitation; and Vincent Sapienza, of the Department of Environmental Protection. Several other panels consisting of government officials, advocates, and business leaders will convene throughout the day.

At 8 a.m. Thursday, Crain’s will hold a “Business Breakfast Forum” with Marisa Lago, Chair of the City Planning Commission and Director of the Department of City Planning, for a conversation on “the city’s controversial rezonings, including Midtown East, industrial districts, affordable-housing mandates and why neighborhood planning is more than just zoning.” Erik Engquist of Crain’s and David Levitt of Bloomberg will moderate.

At 8:15 a.m. Thursday, the Center for New York City Law at New York Law School will host Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg on the “New York City Department of Transportation Strategic Plan 2016,” at 185 West Broadway, as part of its CityLaw Breakfast Series.

At 10 a.m. Thursday, the Campaign Finance Board will hold a public meeting.

At 11 am. Thursday, the Assembly Standing Committees on Health, Social Services, and Aging will hold a joint hearing in Syracuse to “examine the safety and quality of residential units and public spaces in residential adult care facilities.”

At 1:15 p.m. Thursday, the New York City Bar Association will host “Alternatives to Incarceration Programs in Manhattan Supreme and Criminal Court,” a panel discussion with Manhattan Supreme Court judges Juan Merchan and Patricia Nunez; Nicole Ortsman-Dauer, Chief of the Alternatives to Incarceration Unit in the Manhattan DA’s office; Shanti Narra, of the Manhattan Legal Aid Society; and Miriam Popper, of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

At 5:30 p.m. Thursday, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Members Carlos Menchaca and Julissa Ferreras-Copeland will host a celebration of Mexican Independence Day in the Council Chambers at City Hall.

At 7 p.m. Thursday, Mayor de Blasio will host a town hall meeting at the Johnson Community Center in East Harlem with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, State Senators Brian Benjamin and Jose M. Serrano, and Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez.

Friday and the weekend
At 6:30 p.m. Friday, the Gotham Center will host “A Tale of Two New Yorks: The Bloomberg and de Blasio Years” at the CUNY Graduate Center. City Limits’ Jarrett Murphy will talk to Chris McNickle, author of “Bloomberg: A Billionaire’s Ambition,” and Joseph Viteritti, author of “The Pragmatist: Bill de Blasio’s Quest to Save the Soul of New York,” about the city’s history and trajectory under the current and previous mayor.

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: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

by Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max

Voters Pick Women Over Men in Primary for All Six Brooklyn Judicial Seats

vote here vote aqui 5

(Wiki Commons)

During the judicial primary elections September 12, Brooklyn Democratic voters seemed to base their selections for Civil Court judge primarily on gender; immune, apparently, to an ongoing squabble over the process for selecting the nominees, who are virtually guaranteed election in November given the borough’s Democratic tilt.

With 12 candidates vying for six civil court seats, Brooklynites nominated only women to the bench and no men, paying little attention to slates, endorsements, experience, or judicial screening panel approvals. Ignoring a bitter feud playing out between the Kings County Democratic Committee and a political operative running his own insurgent slate, voters chose a combination of women from both slates as well as a female judge running independently.

The trend did not go unnoticed and it has some speculating that in low-turnout elections, uninformed voters simply chose women because they may believe them to be more trustworthy and suited for judgeships.

For countywide civil court -- which had five contested seats -- three county-backed female judges, Connie Melendez (15.3 percent), Robin Sheares (13 percent), and Patria Frias-Colon (10.6 percent), drew enough of the vote to win (voters were asked to choose up to five of the 11 candidates listed on the ballot). Sandra Roper (9.9 percent), who was represented by Gary Tilzer, a political gadfly running a six-person judicial slate, came in fourth, and Ellen Edwards (9.8), who ran independently, was the fifth winner.

Tilzer, who says he has instructed his candidates to shun voluntary judicial screening panels, insists that the current nomination process is rigged.

“The screening panels are fake and the only people who don't know it are the journalists,” Tilzer said in a phone interview. “The party leaders select the judges.”

Many in Brooklyn’s legal community who take issue with Tilzer’s methods expressed dismay that a county-endorsed incumbent, Frederick Arriaga, who finished sixth, will be unseated after 10 years on the bench, while candidates who refused to submit to judicial screening panels or were deemed “unqualified” by the panels, were victorious.

“It’s upsetting that someone would challenge a competent, qualified, sitting judge -- someone who had a good reputation on the bench. Are you trying to make people hire consultants? What is the point of primarying someone like that?” asked former City Council Member Lew Fidler, who has close ties to the county party.

Howard Graubard, a lawyer active in Democratic politics, said the public would not be served if sitting judges were forced to become political.

“When I first came to Brooklyn in the 1980s -- whether a judge was elected by reformers or insurgents -- everyone left alone the incumbent judge. It was frowned upon in the political and legal community. it was something you just didn’t do,” he said. “The fact that Arriaga is not going to be on the bench in January, it’s a sin.”

In addition to the Democratic Party’s judicial screening panel, which has had its own controversies, New York City and Brooklyn bar associations have created their own peer-review screening committees which determine if candidates are “highly qualified,” “qualified,” or “not qualified.” A fourth judiciary screening is conducted by the state’s Office of Court Administration.

The trend held up in the primary election for Brooklyn’s Civil Court District 6, where Tilzer’s candidate, Elena Baron -- a woman deemed unqualified by at least three judicial screening panels -- won with 39.3 percent of the vote, over two panel-approved male judges.

Tilzer, who is credited with getting Brooklyn Civil Court judges Rachel Freier and Odessa Kennedy elected in 2016, is not pleased with the outcome either, speculating that this year’s pitifully low voter turnout derailed efforts to influence votes, and the fact that he was hospitalized with a foot infection in the weeks before the primary.

The only woman on the ballot who was not nominated was Isiris Isaacs, a client of Tilzer’s who was unanimous approved by all four judiciary committees and lost twice before running on the county slate. Close watchers speculate that she does not have an easily discernible female name and was therefore at a disadvantage among voters choosing based on perceived gender identification.

Meanwhile, Tilzer’s most well-known countywide candidate, John O’Hara -- a lawyer who made headlines for his rare conviction on voter fraud charges and subsequent exoneration -- was listed above the other names on the ballot, which is often seen as an advantage, and yet came in last.

While county-endorsed candidates often have a significant advantage, names play an important role in lesser-known elections like judicial races, and it is not uncommon for candidates to be selected based on apparent race, ethnicity, or gender, according to those who closely follow elections, including for judicial seats.

“When voters don’t have a lot of information, many default to women, believing -- whether correctly or not -- that women are outside the dominant power structure,” says election lawyer Sarah Steiner.

This may be aided by the fact that more women vote than men, and low voter turnout -- just 14 percent of New York Democrats voted in the mayoral primary happening the same day as the other primary elections. Some voters don’t even fill in any choices for down-ballot races like judicial seats due to a lack of familiarity with the candidates.

Connie Melendez’s Latino name have also helped her draw the overwhelming majority in the countywide race, since the Latino base was likely energized by the candidacy of Acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, according to those familiar with Brooklyn’s judiciary. Gonzalez won his primary overwhelmingly and will no longer be Acting DA come January.

One thing voters apparently did not pay heed to was the back and forth erupted between a weakened Democratic machine and Tilzer over the legitimacy of the party’s candidate selection process.

A Democratic Party spokesperson said that the screening system was set up decades ago due to a push from government reformers to address rampant corruption within Brooklyn’s court system. The party only chooses to endorse candidates that have been approved by all four judicial screening systems.

“Gary Tilzer is full of sh**. If he had a complaint about the Democratic Party’s screening panel, what about the Brooklyn Bar [Association]? Then what about the New York City Bar [Association]? What about the independent screening panel organized by Office of Court Administration? It is a weak argument,” said Bob Liff, spokesperson for the Brooklyn Democratic Party, which is led by Chair Frank Seddio.

Liff noted that the County’s screening panel, which includes representatives from the borough’s many smaller bar associations, has in the past rejected the prefered candidate of former party boss Vito Lopez and typically find the same judges to be qualified as the peer-review committees run by the bar associations.

Tilzer retorted that Seddio is a member of the Brooklyn Bar Association, serving as its president last year, and suggested that the other screening committees are connected by an intricate web of political power players.

“The bar associations essentially enable a system where the political leaders can pick judges,” Tilzer said. “If they really were serious about having judges not connected to political leaders they would speak on that issue. [Candidates] have to go through this closed system with the county leaders and the district leaders and if you are not part of this group, you don't get elected.”

Aimee Richter, president of the Brooklyn Bar Association, told Gotham Gazette that Seddio, her predecessor, made a point to separate politics from his activities at the volunteer-run bar organization when he was its president in 2016, and had no influence over the judicial committee.

"Frank Seddio is a member of our organization like anybody else. Whenever politics got involved he made a very clear wall between his role at the Brooklyn Bar Association and his work at the Democratic Party. Anything having to do with the judicial screening committees, Frank stepped away from that,” Richter said.

When asked about the independence of its judiciary committee, a spokesperson for the New York City Bar Association pointed to its web page that outlines the organization’s extensive process and criteria for evaluating the qualifications of judicial candidates.

“The Committee’s mission is to determine if the candidate being reviewed holds the necessary qualifications to become a judge, such as integrity, impartiality, intellectual ability, knowledge of the law, industriousness, and judicial demeanor and temperament,” according to the organization’s website.

While the war between Tilzer and the Democratic Party has turned ugly, and both sides have drummed up negative press stories, there is deep skepticism in legal circles over whether the public is served by Tilzer’s efforts.

Until Tilzer became active, voters were presented with few options in Civil Court races, and typically the county-endorsed slate won. In Supreme Court, on the other hand, voters do not get to choose the Democratic nominee at all; rather, nominees are chosen by a judicial nominating convention, a process which has long been criticized for enabling cronyism and corruption. 

However, many politically involved lawyers who spoke to Gotham Gazette defended the legitimacy of the screening panels and objected to Tilzer’s efforts to discredit them.

“I’m a big supporter of the panel system to ensure that we have qualified judges. That’s not to say that there aren’t occasionally qualified judges that for one reason or another, are rejected by the panels,” said Steiner. “Reformers of the judicial process worked really hard to get the panel structure into the existence and to make sure that different groups and different bar associations were able to give their opinion on judges. It’s a real shame that it didn’t happen this time.”

Others they see Tilzer as an opportunist, looking to profit of the little known, barely scrutinized elections, while calling himself a reformer.

“Gary Tilzer has some people bamboozled. He makes money by causing primaries,” said Fidler. “These [screening] panels do really good work and people ought to listen to that, rather than vote on name.”

Tilzer disputes the claim that he is in it for the money. “What I charged was way under price, because I was in the hospital,” he said, adding, “My fee is always lower than what the other consultants charge.”

by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, September 18

New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

This week we’re still assessing the outcomes of last week’s primary elections, while also kicking into full gear with the general election that is upon us, though it has far fewer competitive or interesting races.

It’s also a busy week at the City Council, where current Council members who won their primaries will no doubt have more bounce in their steps knowing they are good for another four years. Virtually all of the incumbents running for reelection either weren’t being challenged at all or won their primaries. The only exception might be Council Member Margaret Chin, whose race is too close to call.

The United Nations General Assembly will be in session this week, which will inevitably cause gridlock in parts of Manhattan. President Donald Trump will be in town for the General Assembly and meetings with foreign leaders. Trump is due to arrive in the city on Sunday and stay for most of the week. Expect protests.

Meanwhile, on Monday Mayor de Blasio will deliver the keynote address at C40 Talks, an event hosted by the C40 network of cities fighting climate change. He'll also be hosting and speaking at the “Global Mayors Summit” to discuss refugee policy and will later appear at a Local 3 union rally in Foley Square.

The Jewish High Holiday of Rosh Hashanah begins Wednesday at sundown, slowing things down in terms of political activity as annually happens. But, there are a number of 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:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.***

The run of the week in detail:

At the City Council on Monday:
--The Committee on Transportation will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss proposed laws relating to new regulations regarding sidewalks and curbs
--The Committees on Parks & Recreation and Waterfronts will meet jointly at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “the role of the Parks Department in regulating recreational waterfront access.”
--The Committee on Courts and Legal Services will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “New York’s integrated domestic violence courts.”
--The Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “getting to zero waste by 2030,” as well as to discuss a proposed law with the aim of achieving that goal.

At 11:30 a.m. Monday, Make the Road NY, the New York Immigration Coalition, and 32BJ SEIU will hold a rally at the Dag Hammarskjold Tower, one block from the UN, to demand that the Trump administration extend Temporary Protected Status for individuals unable to return to their home countries.

At 11:50 a.m. Monday, Mayor de Blasio will kick off climate week by delivering the keynote address at "C40 Talks: How Mayors Are Getting the Job Done," hosted at the New York Times Building by C40, "a network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change." 

At noon Monday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams will hold a press conference at Brooklyn Borough Hall to announce the winner of his “$1 million smart gun design competition,” which aims to reduce gun violence deaths.

At 2 p.m. Monday, Mayor de Blasio will host and deliver the keynote address at “the first-ever Global Mayors Summit on migration and refugee policy and practice.” Mayors from around the world will converge on the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan to discuss issues surrounding refugee and migration policy as the UN General Assembly takes place.

On Monday beginning at 3 p.m. in Manhattan's Cadman Plaza, "Governor Cuomo, and national AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will join thousands of union members in support of IBEW Local 3 against Charter Communications/Spectrum in their fight for a fair contract. More than 1800 members of IBEW Local 3 are entering their sixth month of a strike against corporate greed." Ralliers will then "march across the Brooklyn Bridge in a show of solidarity." Mayor de Blasio is scheduled to address the Local 3 workers at Chambers Street and Centre Street at approximately 3:50 p.m., after which he will head to Foley Square to deliver remarks at the Local 3 rally. 

At 4 p.m. Monday, Comptroller Scott Stringer will host a "United Nations Climate Week Investor Panel and Reception" at the Banque Nationale de Paris Innovation Lab. At 5 p.m., Stringer will deliver remarks at the IBEW Local 3 demonstration at Foley Square. 

At 5:30 p.m. Monday, the Campaign Finance Board’s Voter Assistance Advisory Committee will hold a public meeting at the CFB’s headquarters in the Financial District. Voters are welcome to testify about their primary day voting experiences.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics will meet on Tuesday in Albany.

At 7 a.m. Tuesday, Mayor de Blasio will appear on MSNBC's Morning Joe. At 8 p.m., the mayor "will sign Int. 1688, establishing New York City’s Office of Nightlife" at House of Yes in Brooklyn.

At 8 a.m. Tuesday, City & State will host “Protecting New York’s Water Supply” at New York Law School. The forum aims to “educate New Yorkers and policymakers on how to protect New York’s water from Legionnaires Disease and other health risks and how to preserve superior quality water supply.” Panelists include City Council Member Dan Garodnick; John Letson, vice president of plant operations at Sloan Kettering; and Brad Considine, director of strategic planning at the Alliance to Prevent Legionnaires’ Disease.

At 9 a.m. Tuesday at The New School, "The Center for an Urban Future will hold a high-level symposium...Assessing NYC’s Plan to Create 100,000 Good Jobs...The symposium will include keynote remarks from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, and a panel discussion featuring: Dan Garodnick, Member, NYC City Council & Chair, Economic Development Committee; Kevin P. Ryan, Chairman & Founder, MongoDB, Zola, Workframe and NoMad Health; former Chairman of BusinessInsider and GILT; Marlene Cintron, President, Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation; Seth Pinsky, Executive Vice President, RXR; former President of NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC); Jonathan Bowles, Executive Director, Center for an Urban Future; Moderator: Winston Fisher, Partner, Fisher Brothers; Co-Chair of the NYC Regional Economic Development Council."

At 9 a.m. Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat will hold a “Moment of Truth forum” on “where America stands on immigration, discussing the future of immigration reform in the wake of the Trump administration’s announcement that it would end DACA. The event will take place at the Hispanic Federation Headquarters in the Financial District. Espaillat will be joined by fellow New York City Reps. Yvette Clarke and Nydia Velazquez, as well as Reps. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois and Raul Grijalva of Arizona. Public Advocate Letitia James and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will both also speak.

There will be a public City Planning Commission hearing Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. at the municipal building on the Bedford Union Armory development project and environmental impact statement, as part of the ULURP process.

At 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, schools "Chancellor Fariña will attend a ribbon cutting and deliver brief remarks at PS 201 to unveil the school’s new STEAM Lab and Broadcast Studio." At 11 a.m., Fariña "will join First Lady McCray to announce unprecedented commitment to support LGBT youth in New York City," at the LGBT Center in Manhattan. "In the evening, Fariña will attend a town hall meeting of District 27’s Community Education Council."

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals will hold a public hearing at 250 Broadway.

At 11 a.m. Tuesday, the Assembly Standing Committees on Aging, Social Services, and Health will meet at 250 Broadway in New York for a public hearing to examine the safety and quality of residential units and public spaces in residential adult care facilities, commonly known as adult homes, including: enforcement of health and safety standards; privacy of residents; and residents’ access to supportive and social services, health care, meals, and transportation.”

At noon Tuesday, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will attend a rally in support of the federal DREAM Act with Latino members of Congress and immigrant New Yorkers, at Trump Tower.

"Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman will make an announcement on the opioid epidemic" on Tuesday at noon at 120 Broadway.

At noon Tuesday, Comptroller Scott Stringer will tour local businesses with the Bayside Village Business Improvement District in Queens.

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

On Tuesday at 2:45 p.m. in the Bronx, ""Council Member Cohen and Assemblyman Gjonaj will stand with community leaders and concerned parents to protest the proposed single men’s homeless shelter at Sam’s Carpet on Webster Avenue in Norwood. The proposed site is directly across from P.S. 20. The community is gathering to voice their frustration with the placement of the shelter and lack of community involvement in choosing the site."

At 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara will sit down with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer for a discussion on “Public Corruption and the Rule of Law” at CUNY Law School. 2014 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout will deliver opening remarks.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, City Council member Ben Kallos will hold a town hall meeting at Sloan Kettering Hospital.

On Tuesday at 6 p.m., State Senator Velmanette Montgomery is hosting a town hall meeting on the Constitutional Convention at Business Outreach Center, 85 S. Oxford Street, in Brooklyn. Public Advocate Letitia James will speak.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, Teens Take Charge will host its second “Education Roundtable” at the Schomburg Center in Harlem, engaging students on issues of education policy in conversations with elected officials and educators. Panelists will include Assemblymembers Michael Blake and Carmen de la Rosa, State Senator Brian Benjamin, City Council member Brad Lander, DOE COO Ursulina Ramirez, Young Men’s Initiative deputy director Ifeoma Ike, and District 8 superintendent Karen Ames.

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, City & State will host its final stop on its borough series, on Staten Island, honoring 25 individuals “who live or work in Staten Island in five key sectors.” The event will take place at Staten Island’s Hilton Garden Inn in Bloomfield. Republican mayoral nominee Nicole Malliotakis and Staten Island Borough President Jimmy Oddo will give remarks.

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and Assemblymember Victor Pichardo will host a Know Your Rights forum at the Davidson Community Center in Morris Heights in the Bronx.

At the City Council on Wednesday:
--The Committee on Juvenile Justice will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “violence in New York City Secure Detention Facilities.”
--The Committee on Aging will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss several proposed laws. They relate to “providing assistance to seniors with bed bugs in their homes,” “requiring the department for the aging to provide certain information to households with users of life-sustaining equipment and individuals with a medical hardship,” “establishing a temporary task force on post-incarceration reentry for older adults,” and “an interagency program coordinator for the aging.”
--The Committee on Education will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “adult education programs and adult literacy,” as well as to discuss a proposed law relating to “requiring the mayor’s office of operations to report on adult literacy programs offered by the city or pursuant to a contract with the city.”
--The Committee on Cultural Affairs will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding a “Comprehensive Cultural Plan.”
--The Committee on Technology will meet at 1 p.m. for an oversight hearing regarding the “Annual Open Data Plan” as well as to discuss a proposed law relating to “amending open data standards.”

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

At 1 p.m. Thursday, Families United for Racial & Economic Equality (FUREE) will hold a “Protect Public Housing Rally” in front of NYCHA headquarters at 250 Broadway.

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, the NYC Climate Action Alliance, in tandem with the New York City Bar Association and the New York League of Conservation Voters, will hold a panel discussion on the city’s 80x50 initiative, to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, at Fordham University’s McNally Amphitheatre at Lincoln Center. Speakers include Mark Chambers, of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability; Marcia Bystryn, of the NYLCV; Peggy Shepard, of WE ACT; Amy Turner, of the NYC Climate Action Alliance; and Richard Yancey, of Building Energy Exchange.

Friday and the weekend
From Sunday until Tuesday, the Business Council of New York State will hold its 2017 Annual Meeting at the Sagamore Resort at Lake George.

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: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

by Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max

Meet The Three State Legislators Likely Heading To The City Council

gjonaj election night crop 

Mark Gjonaj & Bronx Democratic leadership (photo: @MarkGjonajNY)

With the New York City primary election behind us, it appears that at least three state legislators are likely to be leaving behind the trips to Albany for plush City Council seats.

Following the path of former State Senator Bill Perkins, who was elected to the City Council in a special election earlier this year, two Assembly members and one state senator are likely to be making the same jump come January: State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr, Assemblymember Mark Gjonaj, and Assemblymember Francisco Moya were all victorious in determinative Democratic primaries Tuesday night.

Assemblymembers Felix Ortiz and Robert Rodriguez also ran in Democratic City Council primaries, but appear to have lost their respective bids. Ortiz came in a distant second attempting to unseat incumbent Council Member Carlos Menchaca and Rodriguez is narrowly behind Diana Ayala in a race he has not conceded, though Ayala did declare victory. Gjonaj will have to defeat Republican candidate John Cerini in the general election, who is expected to be tougher competition than Diaz Sr.'s Republican opponent, Eisley Constantine. Moya does not have any general election competition.

The three state legislators who won on Tuesday would join the City Council as part of the full new class of 51 members for a four-year term starting in January. For Diaz Sr., it would be a return to a Council district he once represented before being elected to the state Senate.

Gjonaj, Moya, and Diaz Sr. will likely be part of a Democratic supermajority in the Council that will elect a new Speaker and work with Mayor Bill de Blasio -- if he prevails in November’s general election as expected. They will be asked to help deal with problems like a lack of housing affordability, a deteriorating transportation system, substandard schools, and more.

The state lawmakers would bring to the City Council significant legislative experience as they fill three of the 10 seats set to change hands.

"The powers of the Legislature are infinitely broader, as a result these candidates bring a functional experience which is invaluable and would help City Council immensely,” says former Assemblymember Richard Brodsky.

Last year, Mayor de Blasio and the City Council approved a large pay boost for all city elected officials, including Council members -- to $148,000, up from $112,500 -- in exchange for a ban on most outside income, which may continue to draw a steady stream of candidates from state government, where legislative salaries have been frozen at $79,000 since 1999. In addition to the pay bump, state lawmakers from New York City may be attracted to the proximity of City Hall as opposed to the state capital, as well as the influence and visibility that come with a City Council position.

Leaving the Legislature, the three would join a number of other rank-and-file state lawmakers who have abandoned Albany for other offices where they believe they can be more effective. Additionally, this year, Republican Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, who was largely unnoticed outside of her district while serving in the Assembly minority, is now posing a fierce challenge to de Blasio in the mayoral race.

In August, State Senator Daniel Squadron, penning a letter in The Daily News about his own disillusionment with the Albany process, announced that he would leave the Senate to pursue a national initiative. During his eight years in Albany, his legislation to close the infamous “LLC loophole” had never made it to the Senate floor.

The moves from the state Legislature to the City Council often come down to opportunity. Diaz Sr., Rodriguez, Gjonaj and Moya all sought to replace City Council members who are term-limited or not seeking re-election. As soon as an elected official enters a City Council race, they typically become the favorite, given their higher profile, ability to fund-raise, and ties to important entities like labor unions. They almost always win.

Lawmakers say they find it easier to have an impact legislatively from the City Council than in the State Assembly, where Democrats have an overwhelming majority, or in the State Senate where the Democratic conference is fractured and in the minority, according to those who have made the switch. The Albany budget and legislative processes are also known to be closed off to many rank-and-file legislators, given the “three men in a room” decision-making that often dominates.

“In order to be effective in Albany you have to be there a long time, to accumulate seniority, to get a committee chairmanship. It’s very hard to get legislation passed without clout,” said Brooklyn Council Member Alan Maisel, who was elected to the body in 2013 after seven years in the Assembly.

Some leave Albany in part because they have young children at home and being Upstate for portions of six months out of the year is grueling for their families, while others are motivated to move to the City Council as they near retirement, because the state’s pension system determines disbursements based on a lawmaker’s most recent salary. Maisel said he enjoyed his time Albany, but the turning point for him was the months after Hurricane Sandy, when he felt helpless to support his constituents from Albany. When the seat became available, he ran.

“Here I am in Albany, from January till June, and I didn’t like that,” he said. “I wanted to be involved in local community things.”

In 2021, when 37 Council members will be term-limited out of office, there is expected to be a marked influx of state legislators to the City Council. Other City Council members who have came from the State Legislature in recent years include Council Members Vanessa Gibson, Rafael Espinal, Joe Borelli, Inez Barron, and Rory Lancman.

The departure of Squadron, Moya and, likely, Diaz Sr. and Gjonaj, will set off a series of special elections, which will be called at the discretion of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY, has called for Cuomo to consolidate all the special elections into one, on November 7, Election Day.

"We need to remove barriers to voting with early voting, instant runoff voting, and automatic voter registration -- an advance the Governor could accomplish administratively without legislative action," said Lerner.

To enable this, Lerner called on the Diaz Sr., Gjonaj, and Moya to "put the public's interest ahead of their own self-interest and resign from the Legislature immediately." If the lawmakers remain in office for the remainder of the term, their seats will remain unfilled during the start of the 2018 legislative session.

This year’s likely migrants have already been thrust into the next big fight in City Hall, that for the coveted role of City Council speaker, held by term-limited Melissa Mark-Viverito until the end of the year. It is for Mark-Viverito’s Council seat in District 8 (East Harlem and the South Bronx) where Assemblymember Rodriguez could still possibly join the wave, if his attempt to see affidavit and absentee ballots counted puts him ahead of Ayala, Mark-Viverito’s preferred successor and former aide.

As their votes are being sought by their soon-to-be-colleagues seeking the speakership, there is more to know about the three legislators likely moving to the City Council.

Ruben Diaz Sr.: Council District 18
Famous for his signature cowboy hat, his unvarnished “What You Should Know” newsletter, and his passionate speeches on behalf of immigrants and the working class on the Senate floor, Reverend Ruben Diaz Sr. will soon be bringing his distinctive sartorial style to the Bronx’s 18th City Council District, a position he briefly held in 2001.

An ordained minister who was born in Puerto Rico, Diaz leads the Christian Community Neighborhood Church on Longfellow Avenue and the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization, an organization of 150 local evangelical ministers. He is known as a conservative Democrat who may be out of step with many more socially progressive Council members.

Diaz, who replaces the term-limited Annabel Palma, enjoys widespread support in the district. Legislatively, during his 13 years in the Senate, 18 of his bills have made it to the governor’s desk, 16 signed into law. His record ranges from targeting the topless panhandlers in Times Square, to pushing Cuomo to implement an identification card program similar to IDNYC across the state, which is available to all immigrants regardless of documentation.

Diaz Sr. also has much to gain from returning to his former district, which he left in 2002 to replace the scandal-scarred Senator Pedro Espada. Moving back to New York City and joining the City Council will allow Diaz, who is 74, to collect a higher pension when he eventually retires and cementing the Diaz brand could be beneficial for his son, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who may have broader, citywide political aspirations in the future.

Diaz Sr. has drawn criticism for his socially conservative views, particularly his vote against New York’s Marriage Equality Act in 2011 and his anti-abortion stance. The reverend’s views have made for tricky politics for allies such as City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who is seeking the Council speakership and was criticized by gay activists for endorsing Diaz Sr. in his Council bid. A prominent LGBT political club, the Stonewall Democrats, rescinded its support for Rodriguez as a result.

“While we obviously do not agree on every issue–particularly his stances on abortion and the rights of the LGBTQ community–I know Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. has been a strong advocate for Latino representation and his working class constituents in the Bronx,” Rodriguez told the New York Post. “As an experienced legislator, he will continue to serve them well in the Council.”

Another speaker hopeful, Council Member Corey Johnson, who is gay, also caught flack for friendliness toward Diaz Sr., but much earlier in the election cycle.

In 2011, Diaz’s grandaughter, Erica, who is a lesbian, famously organized a counter protest to her grandfather’s anti-gay marriage rally.

Regarding his views on homosexuality, Diaz Sr. told City Limits, “You don’t believe in this, you don’t believe in that, but you respect the people. And you provide the service you are supposed to provide and you make sure they get the same service as everyone else.”

Many are surely hoping that his “What you Need to Know” columns, which are published in the Bronx Chronicle continue. In his blunt columns, he’s taken to task his colleagues in the Senate, Governor Cuomo’s ethics reform attempts, actor/director Sean Penn’s comment at the Oscars, and most recently, Council Speaker Mark-Viverito was caught in his crosshairs.

On Tuesday, Diaz Sr. defeated Elvin Garcia, a former Bronx aide in Mayor de Blasio’s community assistance unit who is gay; activist Amanda Farias, who was backed by the National Organization of Women; and others.

“I disagree with Diaz [Sr.] on just about everything, but I find him to be active and engaged and a serious member of the Legislature,” said Brodsky of his former colleague. “The tendency for these candidates to be colorful and independent is a virtue," he added.

Mark Gjonaj: Council District 13
Gjonaj joined the state Assembly in 2012, after defeating incumbent Assemblymember Naomi Rivera, the daughter of Assemblymember Jose Rivera and sister Councilman Joel Rivera, in the 2012 Democratic primary. A real estate broker without political background aside from a stint as the Bronx representative on the Taxi and Limousine Commission, his victory caught the political establishment by surprise.

The son of Albanian immigrant union workers, Gjonaj is seen as something of a trailblazer for the Bronx’s Albanian-American community, which includes a population of more than 12,500, according to 2011 figures, and he continues to have widespread support in the district.

The 48-year-old Gjonaj, who is known for his extravagant fundraising tactics, recently drew criticism for spending campaign dollars on his own family businesses as well accepting donations from questionable sources. He is credited with energizing a somewhat conservative constituency in the Bronx. His centrist Democratic politics is evidenced by the endorsement of state Senator Jeff Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, which forms a ruling majority with the Senate GOP. Both politicians represent suburban areas of the Bronx.

Gjonaj served as chairperson of the subcommittee on micro business and has signaled support for charter schools. He has been criticized for taking credit for the Women’s Equality Act, which he voted against, and he has promoted drug-fighting legislation, including a bill criminalizing and increasing penalties for the sale of synthetic marijuana.

During his bid for City Council, Gjonaj scooped up all the major endorsements from the Bronx Democratic party machine and power players, as well as major labor unions. He spent a record amount -- more than $716,469 -- on his campaign, defeating Marjorie Velazquez, a Democratic district leader and community board member who was endorsed by progressive and women’s groups, and John Doyle, a hospital official who once worked for Klein.

“I am honored that the people of the 13th District have chosen me to fight for The Bronx and help lead the way in protecting the common-sense Democratic values that are vital in safeguarding our working and middle-class families, keeping our streets safe, ensuring every child receives a quality education and securing affordable housing options for the most vulnerable,” Gjonaj said in a statement following his primary win. “From City Hall, I will be in a better position to bring attention to those issues and take action.”

But, Gjonaj does have an active general election competition ahead, even if he is a heavy favorite. Following the primary, Bronx County Republican Party Chair Michael Rendino said in a statement that Gjonaj's primary win showed a lack of popular support. "In a stunning rebuke to politics as usual, Mark Gjonaj couldn't even break 40% in his Democratic primary election after spending more money than any council candidate in the history of the City’s campaign finance system," Rendino said. "Developer Mark Gjonaj is now going to have to defend his record against John Cerini in the general election. John is a longtime community leader and small business owner in Throgg's Neck and has been fighting for us his whole life. I like our chances."

Francisco Moya: Council District 21
Good governance won out on primary day when Francisco Moya successfully beat out disgraced ex-Senator Hiram Monserrate, who was coming off of a two-year stint in jail for misappropriating $100,000 of taxpayer funds after previously having been expelled from the Senate for a domestic violence incident involving his then girlfriend.

Monserrate has been seeking a return to elected office and has shown he can still turn out votes. After a particularly ugly battle, the margin was close, with Moya pulling in 56 percent of the vote, compared to Monserrate’s 44 percent.

"Honesty and integrity won tonight,” Moya, 43, told the crowd at a victory party in Corona Tuesday night, according to The Daily News.

That sentiment was echoed by the National Organization for Women (NOW) which released a statement of congratulations to the incoming Council member. “We are proud to congratulate Francisco Moya for his victory today, because we know that he is going to fight for women, fight for immigrants, and fight for his community, and he can stand up as a role model for them as well,” said Sonia Ossorio, president of the NOW, which had come out strongly against Monserrate’s candidacy in recent weeks.

Beyond Monserrate’s criminal record and ethics, a key point of contention during the race was the fate of Willets Point, a large plot of land that is in limbo after a proposed development there was blocked by a Court of Appeals ruling. The initial deal had been struck by Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who announced earlier this year that she would not seek reelection for the seat and will leave it at the end of the year. She endorsed Moya as her successor and campaigned with him in the days before the primary.

Moya’s progressive legislative record during his seven years in Albany -- not to mention universal disdain for Monserrate from the Democratic establishment -- allowed the Assembly member to sweep up endorsements from the Working Families Party, unions, and numerous politicians, including Mayor de Blasio, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Public Advocate Tish James.

Elected to the Assembly in 2010 over Monserrate, Moya has been known for his efforts to fight for the passage of the NY DREAM Act, which would enable undocumented immigrant college students to be eligible for state financial aid. But year after year, the legislation died in the Republican controlled Senate.

As a Council member, Moya won’t have to worry about his bills being blocked by Republicans, who control only three seats in the 51-seat body.

Moya, who has said that he is the first state legislator of Ecuadorian descent and represents Jackson Heights, Queens, this year introduced an extensive legislative package aimed at protecting immigrants from police and enforcement agencies amidst a federal immigration crackdown, which would provide undocumented individuals with access to public defenders.

He has introduced legislation to stop employment agencies from committing fraud against job seekers, and went to bat for New York’s Scaffold Law, which places all liability for injured construction workers on employers. An avid soccer enthusiast, he's also championed bringing a Major League Soccer stadium to Queens -- an idea that may come to fruition soon.

by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Update: this article has been updated with a revised statement from Common Cause NY.

Update: this article and its headline have been corrected to reflect that Diaz Sr. and Gjonaj have general election opponents.

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, September 11

New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

Tuesday is primary day! Are you ready to vote? Because New York City has closed primaries, be aware that there are restrictions on who can vote in what races. All registered Democrats can vote in the Democratic primary for mayor and for public advocate. Brooklyn Democrats can vote in the Brooklyn District Attorney primary, and if you're a registered Democrat with a City Council primary in your district, you can vote in that, too. There is one Republican City Council primary: in Brooklyn's 43rd Council District. This is not the full list, though. There are other party primaries.

And, one more interesting thing: voters either enrolled in the Reform Party or registered to vote but not affiliated with any party can vote in the Reform Party primary for mayor. While Sal Albanese receivd the Reform Party backing, members of the party filed a "opportunity to ballot" petition and this has opened up the primary. Both Nicole Malliotakis, the presumptive Republican nominee for mayor, and independent mayoral candidate Bo Dietl are making a last-minute push for the Reform Party line, as we reported on Friday afternoon.

Most of the 2017 city election cycle will be determined by Tuesday's primaries because New York is such a heavily Democratic city. There will be few competitive elections for November's general. See what races you can vote in and who is running through our interactive election guide, in partnership with WNYC radio and City Limits. You can also find a great deal of city election coverage from us and our partners here.  

Before primary day, New Yorkers and many others will stop on Monday to commemorate September 11. Sixteen years after the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01, there will be annual ceremonies of remembrance to honor those who died that day and after, and the toll the attacks took, as well as the resiliency of New Yorkers and many others.

And, after primary day, there are 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:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday marks the 16th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.. Memorial services will be held at Ground Zero and elsewhere. The Ground Zero ceremony is first thing Monday morning. Mayor de Blasio will be among those in attendance.

On Monday morning at 11am, our Ben Max will be on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show to preview primary day elections -- 93.9FM or at wnyc.org

At 6:30 p.m. Monday, Staten Island Borough President Jimmy Oddo will hold the annual memorial ceremony at the Postcards Memorial in honor of Staten Islanders who died on September 11, 2001. Mayor de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer, and Public Advocate Letitia James will be among those participating.

On Monday and Tuesday, the New York State Board of Regents will hold its monthly meeting.

Tuesday is primary day in the city. New Yorkers who are eligible given their voter registration have the opportunity to vote in primary elections for Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller, City Council, Borough President, Manhattan and Brooklyn District Attorneys, District Leaders, Civil Court Judges, and Judicial Delegates. Use our voters guide to prepare.

Candidates for office and their supporters will be at subway stops and elsewhere throughout the day trying to win every last vote. Results will begin to come in Tuesday evening. See Gotham Gazette’s Ben Max on NY1’s evening coverage, from 9-11pm.

At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, the Association for a Better New York will host a “Power Breakfast” with Amtrak Chairman Tony Coscia at the Hilton Hotel in Midtown.

At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, the New York City Board of Correction will hold a public board meeting at 125 Worth Street in Manhattan.

At 11 a.m. Tuesday, Hillary Clinton will kick off her book tour at the Union Square Barnes and Noble.

Mayor de Blasio’s primary night event will take place at Roulette Intermedium in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn starting at 9 p.m.

Democratic mayoral candidate Sal Albanese will be holding a primary night event in Brooklyn at Prospect Bar and Grill. Before that event, Albanese will vote on Staten Island, near where he lives, and visit all five boroughs campaigning.

Many other candidates will be holding their primary night events throughout the city.

At the City Council on Wednesday:
--The Committee on Immigration will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “best practices for NYC agencies, courts, and law enforcement authorized to certify immigrant victims for U and T visas.”
--The Committees on Small Business, Contracts, and Economic Development will meet jointly at 1 p.m. to discuss proposed laws relating to “the reporting of information on the workforce of contractors performing construction work for the city,” “racial diversity in the workforce and leadership of city contractors,” and “the participation of minority-and women-owned business enterprises in construction projects related to properties receiving tax benefits in accordance with the industrial and commercial abatement program.”

On Wednesday on Roosevelt Island, "join representatives from Cornell Tech, Cornell University, the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, elected officials, and partners to celebrate the official opening of the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island." The day will include a 10:30 a.m. "campus dedication ceremony and press conference" and a 12:20 p.m. "Cornell Tech campus tour" for press and a 2 p.m. discussion, "Sooner Than You Think at Cornell Tech, hosted by Bloomberg LIVE. The conference will bring together leaders in technology and business to share vital insights into the trends and transformations that are poised to reshape the future. Featuring conversations with IBM Chairman, President and CEO Ginni Rometty, Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security The Honorable Jeh Johnson, Chief Technology Officer for the City of New York Miguel Gamiño, Google Chief Information Officer Ben Fried, Two-Sigma Investments, LP Co-Chairman David Siegel, Founder and CEO of Black Girls Code Kimberly Bryant and many more."

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, #GetOrganizedBK and City Council Member Brad Lander will host “After Charlottesville, What Must We Do?” at 274 Garfield Place in Park Slope.

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Civilian Complaint Review Board will hold a public board meeting at I.S. 49 on Staten Island.

At the City Council on Thursday:
--The Committee on Higher Education will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “CUNY’s efforts to reduce costs associated with rising textbook prices.”
--The Committee on Housing and Buildings will meet at 10 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding “HPD term sheets.”
--The Committee on Education will meet at 1 p.m. to discuss a proposed law relating to “requiring the department of education to report on gay straight, or gender sexuality, alliance organizations” as well as a resolution “calling upon the New York City Department of Education to create and maintain a functional Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) in all middle and high schools in order to support and protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) and other vulnerable students.”
--The Committee on Consumer Affairs will meet at 1 p.m. to discuss “repealing the Cabaret Law.”

At 9 a.m. Thursday, the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute, as part of its Urban Food Policy Forum series, will host “Litigation as a Strategy for Defending and Advancing Food Policy” at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health in Harlem, discussing the advantages and disadvantages of using litigation in this policy area and its role in the Trump era. CUNY UFPI Director Nicholas Freudenberg will moderate a panel consisting of Peter Lehner, of Earth Justice; Thomas Merrill, of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; and Margaret Brown, of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

At 10 a.m. Thursday, the New York City Campaign Finance Board will hold a board meeting.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, State Senator Liz Krueger and the Lexington Democratic Club will host a forum on the potential State Constitutional Convention and upcoming November vote on the subject, at All Souls Church on the Upper East Side. The forum will consist of a panel of supporters and opponents of the convention; it will consist of convention supporters Evan Davis of Cleary Gottlieb and Bill Samuels of EffectiveNY, and convention opponents Adriene Holder of the Legal Aid Society and Jordan Marks of New Yorkers Against Corruption.

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Riders Alliance will host “How Do You Solve a Problem like the Subway” at Solas Bar in the East Village. Executive Director John Raskin will moderate a panel featuring MTA board member Veronica Vanterpool; Jamison Dague, Director of Infrastructure Studies at the Citizens Budget Commission; and Dmitry Diment, a member-leader in Riders Alliance.

At 7 p.m. Thursday, Mayor de Blasio will hold a town hall meeting at P.S. 811 in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, hosted by local City Council Member Chaim Deutsch. Also in attendance will be U.S. Representative Yvette Clarke, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, State Senator Roxanne Persaud, and Assemblymember Helene Weinstein.

Friday and the weekend
At noon Friday, the New York State Board of Elections will hold a Commissioners Meeting in Albany.

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: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

by Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max

What’s The [Data] Point? $66 billion

whats the data point

What's The Data Point? Episode 11 - $66 billion - a Back to School episode with CBC's Dave Friedfel & Riley Edwards  [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]

This week we're back to school and the data point is $66 billion: the amount New York's school districts received in revenue during the 2015-2016 school year. Gotham Gazette's Ben Max and CBC's Director of State Studies Dave Friedfel discuss school funding: how much districts receive and whether aid is targeted to the neediest districts. Then, in part two of the back to school episode, CBC Research Associate Riley Edwards talks with Ben to bust myths about school overcrowding in New York City.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (@TweetBenMax) & CBC (@cbcny). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Can Anyone Defeat Eric Gonzalez for Brooklyn DA?

tish and gonzalez

Acting Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez with Public Advocate Tish James

With just days before Brooklynites head to the polls and decide who will be the borough’s next district attorney, a position briefly held and transformed by the late Kenneth Thompson, the field is crowded with Democratic candidates, each vying to present him or herself as the most progressive, best-suited option to carry on Thompson’s legacy.

Of the six Democratic candidates who will be on Tuesday’s ballot, the frontrunner -- having raised the most money and scooped up endorsements including from elected officials, major labor unions, political clubs, and women's’ rights groups -- is Eric Gonzalez, who was annointed as acting district attorney by Thompson before he died of cancer at age 50 in 2016. Though several of his challengers are energetic debaters and well-qualified for the role, unless someone has differentiated him or herself enough and gets out the vote in a big enough number, Gonzalez’s built-in credibility as Thompson’s “heir” may largely carry him to a full first term of his own.

Thompson, Brooklyn’s first black district attorney, beat out longtime top prosecutor Charles Hynes -- who held the seat for two and a half decades -- in 2013 by campaigning on a platform of reform, and by most accounts was making impressive strides in transforming the criminal justice system in Brooklyn, including by overturning several of Hynes’ faulty convictions, before his death.

While district attorneys have historically kept a low-profile, those who hold the seat wield significant influence and discretion over the borough’s crime fighting policies, and without term limits, the same person may control the office for decades. However, in Brooklyn, the seat could potentially change hands for the third time in five years, and with crime statistics at a record low, the conversation has taken a drastic turn from cracking down on crime to compassionate law enforcement, removing structural racial bias, and ending the school-to-prison pipeline.

The election comes during a period of heightened public awareness about police and prosecutorial treatment of communities of color, cementing a shift energized by Thompson’s victory, where the conversation in Brooklyn is not about which candidate will be toughest, but who will most dramatically reform the office, building on Thompson’s accomplishments, which include ending the prosecution of certain low-level offenses and beginning the process of negating hundreds of thousands of outstanding arrest warrants related to such offenses. Thompson’s conviction review unit, which has exonerated 23 wrongfully convicted people, has become a model for prosecutors around the city and country, something Gonzalez has continued to prioritize..

The other candidates, including prosecutors Marc Fliedner, Patricia Gatling, Ama Dwimoh, Anne Swern, and City Councilmember Vincent Gentile, who is term-limited, have largely sought to present themselves as the most progressive of the bunch. However, with similar messaging and overlapping resumes -- all except for Gentile worked under Hynes during his scandal-marred tenure -- the candidates have largely failed to distinguish themselves from each other during forums and in interviews. The only one striking a slightly more moderate tone is Gentile, who touts the accomplishments of City Council to reform the system legislatively.

The fact that Gonzalez was hand-picked by Thompson helped him accrue extensive institutional support early in the race, and made him an easy favorite among unions and donors. Helen Schaub, New York State policy and legislative director of 1199SEIU, the large and powerful healthcare workers union, noted that the union was an early backer of Thompson and therefore naturally trusted his chosen successor to continue his work as Brooklyn’s lead prosecutor.

“We met with a number of the candidates, and [Gonzalez’s] ability to actually make the changes and the fact that Ken Thompson trusted him to make those changes made him the obvious choice for endorsement,” said Schaub.

Gonzalez won over feminist icon Gloria Steinem, who cited his initiative to tackle sexual assault on college campuses, his efforts to protect immigrants in courts, and his history as a domestic-violence prosecutor. Gonzalez also had a head start on fundraising, pulling in well over $1 million over the course of his campaign. Swern has raised about half that, but the other candidates fall far behind, with Fliedner consistently lagging farthest. Fliedner held just $11,000 in his account at the time of his 11-day pre-primary Board of Elections filings.

Dwimoh, one of two black women in the race along with Gatling, has a compelling story and some name recognition in the borough as a top aide to Borough President Eric Adams, but her claim that she left Hynes’ office because she disagreed with the direction it was headed in did not ring true after her fellow candidates -- some of them former colleagues -- pointed out that she had been investigated and pressured to resign for allegedly mistreating her subordinates.

“Ama is the only candidate who publically rejected Joe Hynes and supported Ken Thompson and worked on the campaign with Ken to develop his agenda,” said Dwimoh’s spokesperson, Evan Thies, repeating his client’s refrain from throughout the campaign. Citing her work at Adams’ office, Dwimoh says her focus would be on fixing the root causes of crime, like lack of adequate housing or social programs in low-income communities.

Fliedner, who as former chief of Thompson’s civil rights bureau successfully prosecuted then-NYPD officer Peter Liang for the shooting of an unarmed black man, Akai Gurley, in 2016, has presented some of the most ambitious plans for incarceration alternatives and elimination of predatory bail practices. Fliedner left Thomson’s office to start his own civil rights practice last June, and has expressed disappointment Liang’s conviction was downgraded from manslaughter to criminally negligent homicide. Thompson ultimately recommended no jail time for the officer. Fliedner has support from Gurley’s family and other relatives of victims of police violence, but has failed to raise a significant amount of money to help get his message out and build more name recognition.

Gatling has her own civil rights record as former head of the city’s Human Rights Commission, though the agency was criticized for inaction on her watch, and critics have noted that she moved back to Brooklyn from Manhattan fairly recently.

Swern, who at the district attorney’s officer ran its Drug Treatment Alternative-to-Prison (DTAP) program and is active in local political clubs, has the backing of several prominent Democrats in Northern Brooklyn, including state Senator Daniel Squadron, Assemblymember JoAnn Simon, and City Council Member Stephen Levin. She's also been endorsed by the Independent Neighborhood Democrats.

Several progressive political clubs in Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, and other more affluent, mostly white areas of Brooklyn formally endorsed Gonzalez, though at least one club said its members were nearly split between the acting district attorney and Swern.

While no candidate came to the race with significant name recognition and no one has made a huge splash to garner more media attention, Brooklyn progressives say they welcome the lively discussion about reducing arrests for low level offenses, alternatives to incarceration, police accountability, expediting the closure of Rikers Island jails, bail reform strategies, and ideas for protecting undocumented immigrants amidst federal crackdowns.

Thompson’s 2013 victory was seen as a major upset in Brooklyn, and was the first in a series of victories for progressives and police reform advocates at district attorney offices across the nation.

Last year, Chicago’s Cook County elected its first black district attorney, Kim Foxx, who vowed to reform the county’s criminal justice system. In fall 2016, in Austin, Texas, progressive reformer Margaret Moore was elected to replace retiring District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg and took steps to immediately restructure the office by firing and reassigning dozens of staff attorneys. In May, Philadelphia voters picked Larry Krasner, a political outsider and former civil rights attorney who has defended Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street protesters free of charge, over six other Democratic newcomers, after disgraced “reformer” DA Seth Williams, also a Democrat, decided not to seek reelection following a federal corruption trial. 

“Nationally, people are paying a lot more attention to prosecutor accountability. Through the non-indictments of high profile cases involving officers, the public has learned what a prosecutor's powers can be and the direct influence they have on the way the criminal justice system works,” said Alyssa Aguilera, Co-Executive Director of VOCAL-NY Action Fund, which endorsed Gonzalez.

bk da field of candidates via errollouisAll of the candidates appear well aware of these political currents. Even Gentile, a former Queens prosecutor who represents one of Brooklyn’s last areas of Republican prowess and might have been expected to take a more moderate, tough-on-crime perspective, has preached a similar message of ending mass incarceration and the “broken windows” approach to aggressively enforcing quality of life offenses.

While the philosophical consensus may make for inconclusive debates, the conversation marks continued shift for the borough and is still fairly unprecedented, according to Brooklyn College sociology professor and criminal justice expert Alex Vitale.

“It's remarkable that for the most part the candidates seem to be vying against each other over who is the most progressive reformer. It's the most shocking development in terms of the DA race. Typically the debate is about who is the toughest on crime,” said Vitale.

Aguilera said that regardless of the outcome, she anticipates that the Brooklyn district attorney’s office will continue to set the tone across the nation.

The election also coincides with the early presidency of Donald Trump, whose administration has targeted immigrants, including those who may have committed low level, nonviolent offenses, which has blown political winds in New York City farther to left, so much so that even political foes on varying points of the Democratic spectrum are beginning to sound the same. During his tenure, Gonzalez has directed the attorneys under his charge to pursue charges in ways that limit exposure to possible immigration enforcement.

As the determinative primary vote approaches, ambivalence about the candidates is reflected across the borough. The New Kings Democrats, a progressive reform club that meets in Fort Greene and has pushed for the sort of changes being discussed in the district attorney race, met with all the candidates and along with other Democratic clubs in the area held a candidates forum in June. However, despite a “rich discussion” and extensive interviews with the six contenders, New Kings ultimately did not endorse anyone for district attorney, because no single candidate hit the NKD requirement for endorsement.

“Nobody meet the two-thirds threshold, so there was no consensus. But whoever wins we'll see what they do in office and hold them accountable to it,” said Anusha Venkataraman, president of NKD.

Among civil rights and police reform advocates serving Brooklyn’s communities of color, the sentiment is similar.

“Unlike when Thompson was running, and there were very clear distinguishing features, there’s no one who makes many of the folks I know want to run out and embrace a particular candidate,” said Mark Winston Griffith, executive director of the Brooklyn Movement Center, who noted that each candidate has issues with his or her campaign.

The Brooklyn Movement Center, which does not make endorsements, advocates for a variety of issues that impact low-to-middle-income neighborhoods in Central Brooklyn. According to Griffith, the rhetoric has been uninspiring to politically active black New Yorkers. “If you are not part of the political establishment or have some sort of compelling interest, I think that people are having a hard time distinguishing one from the other or feeling particularly enthusiastic about one or the other. There’s not a lot hinging on purely philosophical grounds. Gonzalez is clearly the frontrunner and it’s easy to see why some might find it expedient to support him.”

While Gonzalez’s public appearances at forums and debates are less impassioned and memorable than some of his challengers, he has showcased his competence and experience in one-on-one interviews, according to a member of the local Working Families Party chapter.

Aguilera, whose organization endorsed Gonzalez early on, agreed. "He is a smart person, he spent a lot of time with us talking a lot about policy, knows how to run the office, and he's followed through on some commitments already to enact some reform. He grew up poor in Brooklyn from a Latino community; he understands directly and that carries a lot of weight in a race where everyone is saying the same thing,” Aguilera said. “We see comradery and potential from a person who has lived through what low-income communities of color have been through."

While Swern and Fliedner bring passion and stage presence to debates, whereas Gonzalez is relatively subdued, their remarks may come across as disingenuous pandering to communities of color. At a recent forum hosted by Faith in New York Action Committee in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Swern appeared to be the favored candidate of those in attendance. Her impassioned criticism of the injustices with predatory bail practices were punctuated by cheers from the crowd, including shouts of “We love you, Anne!” Outside, a disproportionate number of canvassers for Swern, clad in “Black Lives Caucus” shirts, handed out fliers.

Later, Gatling’s campaign accused Swern of paying the canvassers at the event -- a claim Swern and the Black Lives Caucus, a spinoff group of the Black Lives Matter movement, denies.

“This is essentially making a mockery of the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Gatling in a statement. “This kind of behavior fosters an ongoing climate of racial tension when someone uses the deaths of African-American men as a political ploy to gain entrance and votes from the African-American community.”

At the same event, Dwimoh called out Fliedner, who is white, after he declared that he was the only person on the stage willing to say “Black Lives Matter” out loud.

“I don't have to say 'Black Lives Matter,'” Dwimoh retorted. "I live it. I am a black woman in America. How dare you!"

While he said he doesn’t necessarily doubt any candidate’s sincerity, when it comes to this type of pandering, Griffith believes “the average, progressive, politically active black person is going to roll their eyes.”

Local elections often come down to money and endorsements -- and the canvassing and get out the vote efforts they can both produce -- and other factors that can sometimes tip the scales in favor of one candidate. With a crowded field of little-known candidates in what is expected to be a low-turnout primary, it is hard to decipher how the election will go, other than to say that Gonzalez has had several clear advantages.

The primary election for Brooklyn District Attorney takes place on Tuesday, September 12, and the Democratic nominee will be the presumptive winner of the seat.

by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, September 5

New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

This week will be full of campaigning as we hit one week until primary day on Tuesday. Are you ready to vote on September 12?

It was a busy weekend of campaigning for Mayor Bill de Blasio, his main primary opponent Sal Albanese, and the mayor's expected general election opponent Nicole Malliotakis, among other candidates who were out on the trail, from those running for mayor through the City Council. Many are also paying close attention to the crowded Brooklyn District Attorney primary. There are more than two dozen highly competitive City Council races and many others with some competition -- we've outlined 20 Races to Watch, and you can find all of our 2017 elections coverage here.

There are a variety of candidate debates happening this week, including the second of two official debates between de Blasio and Albanese, which will be televised Wednesday night on CBS-2. There will be a Brooklyn District Attorney candidate debate on Tuesday night on NY1. There are also several official City Council debates sanctioned by the Campaign Finance Board/NYC Votes and local partner organizations. This includes the official NYC Votes debate for the Democratic nomination in the 21st City Council District in Queens, between Assemblymember Francisco Moya and Hiram Monserrate, a former Council Member and former State Senator who has been convicted of both assaulting his girlfriend and illegal use of city money. Gotham Gazette's Ben Max will moderate the Thursday debate that is co-sponsored by Food Bank for New York City. {As of Tuesday, the CD21 debate has been canceled due to problems with ensuring a professional and neutral exchange among the candidates at an appropriate venue.]

There is quite a bit more happening beyond the final crucial week of the primary campaign, with a good deal of action at the City Council and several other 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:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday is Labor Day.

Tuesday marks one week until primary day! Be ready to cast your ballot -- use our interactive voter guide, which we've created in partnership with WNYC radio and City Limits.

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

At 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Governor Cuomo will host a ceremony honoring longtime Assemblymember Denny Farrell, who has resigned from the Assembly. Riverbank State Park in Washington Heights will be renamed after Farrell. Comptroller Scott Stringer will be among those who deliver remarks.

At 11 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall, Democratic mayoral candidate Sal Albanese and Democratic public advocate candidate David Eisenbach will hold a press conference, at which the Small Business Congress will endorse Albanese for Mayor. Afterward, at 11:30 a.m., Albanese will outline his plan for Riker's Island jails.

Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. on the steps of Tweed, there will be a press conference for the "release of the 2017 NYC Kids PAC education report card for Mayor de Blasio, on issues ranging from testing, class size, school overcrowding, to funding, transparency, special education and diversity."

On Tuesday at 12:45 p.m., "Mayor de Blasio and Transportation Commissioner Trottenberg will ride the BX6 Select Bus Service in the Bronx on its first workday of service. The upgraded route will speed commutes for 24,000 daily riders. The Mayor will ride from River Avenue to Intervale Avenue." At 2 p.m., "the Mayor and Police Commissioner O’Neill will hold a media availability regarding crime statistics" at the 41st Precinct in the Bronx.

At 1 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, there will be a press conference calling for Halal and Kosher Food in city public schools. Comptroller Stringer will be among those speaking.

At 6:45 p.m. Tuesday, NY1, NY1 Noticias, and BRIC TV will host a debate for Democratic candidates for Brooklyn District Attorney at BRIC’s studios in Downtown Brooklyn. NY1’s Errol Louis will moderate. Attending candidates are Acting DA Eric Gonzalez, City Council Member Vincent Gentile, Ama Dwimoh, Anne Swern, Marc Fliedner, and Patricia Gatling.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, the League of Women Voters will host a forum for Democratic candidates for City Council District 4 at Kaye Playhouse on the Upper East Side. Read about the race and the candidates here.

The Uniformed Firefighters Association 100th Anniversary Event is Tuesday evening. Mayor de Blasio and Comptroller Stringer are among those who will attend.

At the City Council on Wednesday:
--The Committee on General Welfare will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss a resolution “urging Congress to reject proposed reforms to cut funding to SNAP and to reject efforts to convert the program into a block grant.”
--The Committee on Mental Health will meet at 10:30 a.m. to discuss proposed laws relating to “autism spectrum disorder reporting” and “disability classification reporting from the department of education.”
--The Committee on Consumer Affairs will meet at 10:30 a.m. to discuss proposed laws relating to “the sale and financing of used automobiles by second-hand automobile dealers” and “requiring second-hand automobile dealers to post and distribute a bill of rights to consumers.”
--The Committees on Mental Health & Public Safety will meet jointly at 11 a.m. for an oversight hearing regarding the “NYPD’s Responses to Persons in Mental Health Crisis.”
--The Committee on Land Use will meet at 11 a.m.
--The Committee on Immigration will meet at 1 p.m. to discuss proposed laws relating to “expanding the office of immigrant affairs” and “an immigrant affairs task force.”
--The Committee on Parks and Recreation will meet at 2 p.m. to discuss a proposed law relating to “the length of the season for city beaches and pools.”

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

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, the AARP will host a forum for candidates for the open City Council seats in the 13th and 18th districts, both in the Bronx, at Maestro’s Caterers in Morris Park. The forum will focus on the needs of older New Yorkers. Moderators include Nick Powell of City & State, Erin Clarke of NY1, and George Bodarky of WFUV.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, the Ocean Hill-Brownsville Coalition of Young Professionals will host a forum for candidates for Council District 41 at Brooklyn Collegiate High School in Brownsville.

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Hispanic Federation will host a forum for candidates for Council District 8 at the Julia de Burgos Performance and Arts Center on the Upper East Side.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Democratic primary challenger Sal Albanese, a former City Council member, will debate. The debate will take place at the CUNY Graduate Center and televised by CBS 2 and aired on 1010 Wins and Newsradio 880. It will be moderated by Maurice DuBois of CBS 2, with questions also coming from panelists Marcia Kramer of CBS 2, Juliet Papa of 1010 WINS, and Jillian Jorgensen of The Daily News.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, Rachel Holliday of DNAinfo will moderate the final debate for candidates for the 35th Council District at P.S. 9 in Prospect Heights. Attending candidates are incumbent Democrat Laurie Cumbo, Democratic challenger Ede Fox, and Green party candidates Jabari Brisport and Scott Hutchins.

At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Faith in New York will host “Faith Over Fear” meetings with candidates for City Council District 6 at the Manhattan JCC on the Upper West Side. Invited candidates are incumbent Democrat Helen Rosenthal, Democratic challengers Mel Wymore and Cary Goodman, and independent challengers David Owens and Bill Raudenbush.

The full City Council will hold a stated meeting at 1:30 p.m. It is expected to be prefaced by the usual pre-stated press conference led by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, the NYCHA branch of the NAACP will host a forum for candidates for City Council District 2 at the Grand Street Settlement on the Lower East Side.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, there will be a forum for candidates for City Council District 8 at the Children’s Aid Society on the Upper East Side, focusing on affordable housing. Attending candidates are Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez, Diana Ayala, and Tamika Mapp. The debate is sponsored by East Harlem Preservation, the Justice Center en El Barrio, and the East Harlem/El Barrio Community Land Trust.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, the East Kings County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority will host a forum for candidates for City Council District 43 at the Brooklyn Public Library in Bay Ridge. District 43 has competitive Democratic and Republican primaries.

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Food Bank for New York City, in partnership with NYC Votes and Gotham Gazette/Citizens Union Foundation, will host a forum for candidates for City Council District 21 in Queens. The debate will be moderated by Gotham Gazette’s Ben Max. Attending candidates are Assemblymember Francisco Moya and former State Senator Hiram Monserrate. [This debate has been cancelled.]

At 7 p.m. Thursday, Garifuna Coalition USA will host a forum for candidates for City Council District 18 at PS 106 in Parkchester. The forum will be moderated by Dominic Carter of RNN News. Attending candidates are State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr, Michael Beltzer, Amanda Farias, Elvin Garcia, and William Moore.

On Thursday at 7 p.m. at The New School, "Juan González launches his latest book, Reclaiming Gotham: Bill de Blasio and the Movement to End America’s Tale of Two Cities with a public talk followed by an on-stage conversation with New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, moderated by Amy Goodman."

Friday and the weekend
At 10 a.m. Friday, the Campaign Finance Board will hold a public board meeting.

At 3 p.m. Friday, the Center for Community & Ethnic Media will host a “Newsmakers 2017” discussion, “Why the 2017 New York City elections are so crucial for the future and security of its residents.” NY1’s Errol Louis will moderate a panel consisting of David Dyssegaard Kallick of the Fiscal Policy Institute; Christian Gonzalez-Rivera of the Center for an Urban Future; and Stephen Witt of Kings County Politics. The event will take place at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

At 11:30 a.m. Saturday, the Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network will lead a “March Against Gentrification” starting at the Barclays Center, with rallies at Ebbets Field in Crown Heights, Herbert von King Park in Bed-Stuy, and Myrtle Wyckoff Plaza in Bushwick.

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: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

by Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max

Extraordinary District Leader Ballot Feud Escalates to State's Highest Court

court of appeals

The State Court of Appeals (wikicommons)

District leader races typically receive scant media coverage or scrutiny from the state’s Board of Elections investigative division. Disagreements over candidate petitioning for the unpaid, party position are typically settled by borough Board of Elections officials and occasionally advance to a county-level Supreme Court. However, this week, a dispute over the validity of what amounts to 12 signatures for a pair of Harlem district leader candidates -- an incumbent and a newcomer sharing a slate -- is headed to the state’s highest court.

On Wednesday, the New York State Court of Appeals in Albany will consider whether to examine if multiple New York Supreme Court judges were justified in unanimously reinstating Norma Campusano and Daniel Clark to the ballot for September’s Democratic primary. This, after the candidates were booted off the ballot by the Manhattan Board of Elections due to what its officials deemed a valid signature challenge from Campusano and Clark’s political opponents.

A district leader ballot petitioning case reaching the state's highest court is an extraordinary rarity, but the particulars of this conflict can be traced to the type of often-divisive county party politics that dominates elections for virtually every elected position.

The role of district leader comes with limited official power. These party officials play a role in engaging voters, nominating civil judicial candidates, making formal party endorsements, appointing paid poll workers, and voting for the county Democratic Party chair position, currently held in Manhattan by former Assembly Member Keith Wright. In Manhattan, Assembly Districts are often divided into two to four parts, with each party electing a male and female district leader. Each of Manhattan’s 12 Assembly districts gets 24 votes for party boss, and each district leader is granted an appropriate fraction of that vote.

In West Harlem, Campusano is running for female leader for Assembly District 70, Part D, alongside Clark, an incumbent who was previously a political ally of Wright, but is not being supported by Wright now. The incumbent female district leader, Alicia Barksdale, is running for reelection in the same district, and had been joined by Vernon Williams for male district leader, but he was knocked off the ballot, according to Barksdale. Barksdale said she has not received support from Wright in her reelection bid, despite indication from Wright's spokesperson that she has.

Corey Ortega, who worked for Wright in the New York State Assembly, and Gricel Ortiz-Thompson are running together for male and female district leader, respectively, and they have been waging a relentless campaign to knock Clark and Campusano off the ballot. Wright has signaled tacit support for Ortega given his purported neutrality in the male district leader race.

The district is important to Wright, as it is in his backyard (he previously represented the 70th Assembly District), and losing any district leaders there could signal waning support for his leadership and have a ripple effect across the county. While the Democratic party in Manhattan has always been fractured, Wright has been well-liked, but has had a difficult few years. In 2016, he lost a contentious Democratic primary for his retiring mentor Charles Rangel’s congressional seat to rival Adriano Espaillat, then a state Senator, and now he is facing blowback for accepting a job at a prominent lobbying firm following his years as a state legislator. Wright followed through on a promise not to run for reelection to the Assembly if he lost the congressional race.

In July, Clark and Campusano submitted nearly 2,000 ballot signature petitions, four times the 500-signature minimum for district leaders. The Board of Elections initially invalidated approximately 1,512 of their signatures, leaving them with 488 signatures – 12 short of qualifying for the ballot.

Clark and Campusano were kicked off the ballot by the Manhattan Board of Elections, in proceedings overseen by Deputy Chief Clerk William Allen, himself a Democratic District Leader in the neighboring AD 70 Part A and a close ally of Wright.

New York County Supreme Court Judge Carol Edmead reinstated Clark and Campusano on the ballot on August 11, writing that “the defects alleged in the pleadings are di minimus,” an abbreviation of a Latin doctrine referring trivial matters not worthy of the court’s scrutiny. Four days later, Ortega and Ortiz-Thompson formally retained leading election attorney and former state Senate Minority Leader Marty Connor to block their opponents from getting on the ballot.

On August 17, Connor filed an appeal with the First Appellate Division of the New York County Supreme Court, but on August 23, the seven-judge panel “unanimously affirmed” the original court ruling placing Clark and Campusano on the ballot, noting they had been “erroneously invalidated by the Board of Elections.”

Connor wrote to the New York State Court of Appeals, requesting that the state’s highest court hear an appeal, and will defend the motion in Albany on Wednesday.

Arthur Greig, the election lawyer representing Clark and Campusano, told Gotham Gazette that it is highly unusual for a run-off-the-mill signature challenge to reach the state’s highest court.

“Typically, you’ll see people slugging it out in City Council races, where you see they have raised and spent $10,000. But for an unpaid, party position, it’s virtually unheard of,” said Greig.

An election case that reaches the appellate courts can cost clients between $5,000 and $15,000 in attorney fees, according to Greig -- a hefty price tag for a chance to be elected to an unpaid position.

Greig says he has been paid by Clark and Campusano (though he declined to disclose how much), who opened a campaign fundraising account in late August, presumably to help meet their legal fees and will be obligated to file an “11-day pre-primary” financial disclosure with the state Board of Election on September 1 or “10-day post-primary” disclosure by September 22, depending on when the account is processed by the BOE.

It is also unclear who is paying for Ortega and Ortiz-Thompson’s challenge. While Ortega has an active campaign committee, it has not filed a required BOE campaign finance report since July 2016.

Ortega and Ortiz-Thompson formed a joint election committee that does not designate the office they are respectively seeking on April 20, 2017, but have not filed the required periodic filing due July 17, 2017 or the 32-day pre-primary filing due August 11, 2017.

When asked why he was pursuing such an aggressive tactic, Connor said, “I’m a lawyer; I do what my client tells me.” When asked whether he was being paid by Ortega and Ortiz-Thompson, Connor said, “It’s none of your business whether someone is paying me or not.”

The New York County Democratic Committee last filed last month, in July 2017, reporting $37,161.86 cash on hand. Because the committee is a “housekeeping” account, it is prohibited from spending funds to influence the outcome of specific campaigns, instead it is required to only spend on party building activities.

Connor’s history as a state senator is also newly relevant considering the recent resignation of Senator Daniel Squadron -- who defeated Connor in the 26th Senate District in 2008 --- triggering a special election process where Connor’s name has been floated.

Last week, Gothamist’s Ross Barkan reported that Connor may be seeking the party nomination from Wright for the election that will determine who serves the remainder of Squadron’s term. Connor’s work in aiding an ally of Wright to defeat political opponents in a district leader race of particular concern to Wright could help tip the scales in Connor’s favor.

Since the Senate district encoumpasses parts of lower Manhattan and brownstone Brooklyn, Wright and Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Frank Seddio are charged with negotiating the Democratic nominee, which in the Democrat-heavy district is akin to choosing Squadron’s successor. While the majority of the district is in Manhattan, a spokesperson for the Brooklyn Democratic Party noted to Gotham Gazette that the seat has historically been held by a Brooklyn resident, and choosing a Brooklynite as Squadron’s successor is important to the party.

Sources told Gothamist that Connor, who is from Brooklyn, could be selected as a compromise to serve out the remainder of Squadron’s term. When asked about being potentially selected by party bosses for the nomination, Conner was coy.

"I have no idea what people are saying, but that would be interesting, wouldn't it?" He told Gotham Gazette, adding, “It's nice to be thought of after all these years.”

Others vying for the seat are Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh whose Manhattan district slightly overlaps with Squadron's Senate district, and Paul Newell, a lower Manhattan activist who has run for state Assembly multiple times. Lincoln Restler, an aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio who has been active in Brooklyn Democratic circles, has also been rumored.

The Democratic primary election for Manhattan district leaders and many other seats is September 12. The general election, which will include the special state Senate election, is November 7.

by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

This article has been updated multiple times, in part due to misinformation provided by a spokesperson for County leader Keith Wright, who took issue with the original version of the story that indicated Wright was not supporting Alicia Barksdale for reelection as female district leader. Gotham Gazette amended the article to include word of Wright's support for Barksdale, per the spokesperson, Barry Weinberg.

When Barksdale read that updated version of this article that indicated Wright was supporting her reelection, she wrote Gotham Gazette to say, "Your article was news to me. I did text him to thank him if it was true but no response...so I know it isn't true of his support."*

Weinberg, president of the West Harlem Progressive Democratic Club, helped the Ortega and Ortiz-Thompson ticket gather ballot petition signatures and served as witness on them, but told Gotham Gazette he did so on his own accord, not as a representative of Wright or the county party, where he serves as executive director.

On Wednesday, the Court of Appeals declined to revisit the challenge to Clark and Campusano, so they will appear on the ballot September 12.

*Another update: not long afer the addition of this editor's note, Barksdale wrote Gotham Gazette to say that Wright had called her and given his support and endorsement to her campaign.

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, August 28

New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

It was a busy campaign weekend for Mayor de Blasio, who exchanged reelection endorsements at events with Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., as well as making several other campaign stops. De Blasio will mix governing and politics this week, including, on the government side, a bill-signing and press conference on Monday, and a town hall Wednesday night in Williamsburg with City Council Member Antonio Reynoso.

Overall, this week is a fairly quiet one in New York politics as we head toward the Labor Day weekend -- there are no City Council hearings, for example. But, there are several events to be aware of, and we're hitting two weeks until primary day in the 2017 city election cycle, so expect a lot of campaign activity in your neighborhood and/or around the city. See our day-by-day rundown of several events below.

  ***Do you have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? email Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.***

The run of the week in detail:

On Monday at noon at NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County, "Mayor de Blasio will sign a package of bills aimed at decreasing smoking, Intro. 1131-B, 1471-A, 1532-A, 1544-B, 1547-A, 1585-A, 484-A." The mayor will also take questions from the press.

On Monday at 10:30 a.m. outside Staten Island Borough Hall: "Just One Ferry? Mayoral Candidate Sal Albanese Holds Press Conference on Need for a New Ferry for Staten Island’s South Shore."

On Monday, "Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman will attend the State Fair and speak at the Fallen Officers’ Memorial in Syracuse."

Monday evening is the next filing deadline for candidates in the 2017 city elections, with financial reports due to the Campaign Finance Board.

"In an effort to promote a safe summer and safe J'Ouvert 2017, the first annual “Love Yourself" Brooklyn Peace Concert is being held on Monday." At 4 p.m. "at the Medgar Evers College Amphitheater, the event was organized by Assemblyman Walter Mosley in partnership with Council Member Laurie Cumbo, Senator Jesse Hamilton, and District Leader Geoffrey Davis."

Mayoral candidates Bob Gangi, Mike Tolkin and Richard Bashner will appear on NY1's Road to City Hall Monday evening.

Tuesday marks just two weeks until primary day for the 2017 city elections. See who is running here.

On Tuesday at 6:50 a.m., "Mayor de Blasio will greet the first NYC Ferry riders from Astoria arriving at the East 34th Street Ferry Landing, and deliver remarks." Then, between 7:20 a.m. and 8:05 a.m., "the Mayor will appear live on PIX11 Morning News, Good Day New York on Fox 5, NY1, WCBS 880 and 1010 WINS."

On Tuesday at 11 a.m., "Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman will announce a crackdown on designer drugs in Watertown."

"Senators Jeff Klein, Diane Savino, Jose Peralta and Marisol Alcantara will release, “Preying on Pre-Ks,” a report examining a dangerous loophole allowing hundreds of sex offenders to live near standalone pre-kindergartens throughout the city. The alarming report will be released on Tuesday, 12 p.m. at 250 Broadway, 20th Floor, New York, NY."

At 4 p.m. Tuesday, Governor Cuomo will deliver remarks at the Connect Four Ideas Festival, at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor. The event is closed to the press.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, "Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray will host a West Indian and Caribbean American Heritage Reception at Gracie Mansion. Cicely Tyson will be honored with a proclamation."

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Faith in New York will host a forum for candidates for Brooklyn District Attorney at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in Bed-Stuy. The attending candidates are acting DA Eric Gonzalez, City Council Member Vincent Gentile, Ama Dwimoh, Patricia Gatling, Anne Swern, and Marc Fliedner.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, the Red Hook Star-Revue will host a debate for candidates for the 38th City Council district, covering Red Hook, Sunset Park, and Windsor Terrace in Brooklyn, at Pioneer Works. The attending candidates are incumbent Council Member Carlos Menchaca; Democratic party challengers Felix Ortiz, Sara Gonzalez, Delvis Valdes, and Chris Miao; and Green party challenger Carmen Hulbert.

On Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Center Circle at Maria Hernandez Park, "the community group Cleanup North Brooklyn (CNB) will be holding a press conference to draw greater attention to the immense harms brought upon the north Bushwick community by the operations of a local garbage processing facility. The facility creates strong odors, disruptive noise, constant truck traffic, and air pollution, which contributes to high rates of asthma in the community. Despite CNB’s long-standing efforts to work with the facility to make improvements, little has changed, leading CNB and their partners at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) and Schindler Cohen & Hochman LLP to take their actions a step further."

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, Mayor de Blasio will hold a town hall meeting at the Williamsburg Community Center. Hosting with the mayor will be local reps: City Council Member Antonio Reynoso, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and Assembly Member Maritza Davila.

At 10 a.m. Thursday, the New York City Campaign Finance Board will hold a board meeting.

Friday and the weekend
Happy Labor Day weekend! We will have our next Week Ahead on Monday evening September 4. Remember, primary election day is Tuesday, September 12. See the full list of candidates running here or read about our 20 Races to Watch here.

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: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

by Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max

Print Friendly and PDF

Editor's Choice

Gotham Gazette: East New York Rezoning, One Year Later East New York Rezoning, One Year Later Gotham Gazette: City Council Members Opt Out of Campaign Finance Program City Council Members Opt Out of Campaign Finance Program Gotham Gazette: Cuomo Contradicts Bharara on Prosecutors & Government Oversight Cuomo Contradicts Bharara on Prosecutors & Government Oversight Gotham Gazette: De Blasio Attempts to Clarify Latest Media Insult De Blasio Attempts to Clarify Latest Media Insult


The comments section is provided as a free service to our readers. Gotham Gazette's editors reserve the right to delete any comments. Some reasons why comments might get deleted: inappropriate or offensive content, off-topic remarks or spam.