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Gov. Cuomo says he's optimistic about his meetings yesterday with the White House and Congressional leaders where he pressed for aid to help rebuild from Superstorm Sandy. Congress and the president are currently trying to agree on how to avoid a possible fiscal crisis next month. The disaster aid will most likely be tied to those talks. Some in Congress have suggested the aid be offset by cuts elsewhere, a move that would put the money at risk. This is the first time Cuomo has visited Washington since being elected. Mayor Bloomberg made a similar visit last week. New Jersey is also seeking about $37 billion in aid.

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As politicians begin taking more seriously the possible construction of a sea barrier, Gov. Cuomo will travel to Washington today seeking over $40 billion in aid -- a large chunk of which will go towards protection from future storms. The Washington Post backed up similar thinking, calling big spending on preparation well worth it. But of course, planning will be difficult, and it's much more complicated than just walling of the city from nature. Future development should come into consideration; like new plans for Flushing Meadows Park in Queens. Some say the park's role as natural buffer against flooding would be compromised by the proposed stadiums and malls. And then there's the gas pipeline planned for construction under The Rockaways. Environmentalists say flooding in the area threatens its stability.

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The Department of Environmental Conservation released new proposed hydraulic fracturing regulations today. The public comment period starts on Dec. 12 but reactions to them have already started to pour in. The DEC has said it won't take any final action until DEC Commissioner Niravh Shah completes his planned health review of fracking but advocates aren't happy that these proposed regulations have been released before the health study has been completed. 

The New York Water Rangers issued this statement: 

"The Cuomo administration's decision to propose revised fracking regulations undermines the governor's oft-stated promise to let the science drive his decision-making process.

By issuing revised rules before the Departments of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Health (DOH), and their outside experts, have had the chance to undertake a comprehensive review of fracking's consequences, the governor and his staff are signaling that it is not important to understand the public health impacts from fracking. But this knowledge is critical, and must be used to shape regulations and ultimately determine whether or not to permit fracking in New York State.

Millions of New Yorkers who could bear the burden of unknown consequences have been left in the dark.

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The numbers Gov. Cuomo used to argue that Sandy had more of an impact than Katrina left some room for debate. In 2006, HUD put the number of damaged homes in Louisiana at 515,249, not 215,000, as the governor had implied. That brings the damage close to the final count of 550,000 damaged homes they expect to find in New York. There were also many times more businesses impacted by Katrina than the figure Cuomo used. And of course deaths caused by the Southern storm were staggering compared to the loss of life in the New York area.

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Gov. Cuomo said Hurricane Sandy affected more people than Katrina in his plea for nearly $42 billion in federal aid. He noted many more died in Katrina, but that the economic toll of Sandy was higher, reaching almost $33 billion in clean up costs. The aid request from Cuomo grew from his previous plea for $30 billion.The aid would be used to cover damage and restoration, but $9 billion of it would be used to prepare for future storms. Mayor Bloomberg is making his own plea for nearly $10 billion in aid. State health officials are also asking for almost a half-billion dollars in special Medicaid funding for hospitals, nursing homes and clinics affected by the storm.

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Gov. Cuomo's response to Superstorm Sandy has earned him high approval ratings, despite some mistakes -- such as his failure to reform the state-controlled Long Island Power Authority since he took office. But he has begun making up for another misstep, and will meet today with the state’s Congressional delegation to discuss his request for federal recovery aid. He had been criticized for not coordinating with them. Meanwhile, the state will use a federal grant to hire over 5,000 unemployed New Yorkers in temporary positions to help clean up after the storm. Also, Cuomo has said he won't raise taxes to cover losses resulting from Sandy.

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Representatives of Occupy Sandy say they are in desperate need of one resource this Thanksgiving in their effort to help residents of the hurricane-ravaged Rockaways recover: Volunteers.

"We just need bodies," says Kei Dowea, a volunteer who has been helping out with the recovery effort in the Queens community for about two weeks. "We have had such an incredible response it just needs to be maintained. I've seen a slight decline in turnout in the last few days and what we really need are people in vehicles or in groups."

Dowea says volunteers can head to Saint Jacobi Lutheran Church at 5406 4th Street in Brooklyn where Occupy Sandy has a supply station to pick up goods and bring them out to the Rockaways.

Don't have a vehicle? Dowea says that isn't a problem.

"We just got two semis that delivered supplies to the church, so people are welcome to buy things and bring them out, but what we need desperately are the things we already have to be brought out there," she says. "Just come up here and we can get them a ride out to Queens."

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that a new free shuttle service dubbed the H train will begin providing service to residents of the hard-hit Rockaway Penninsula at 4 a.m. tomorrow.

“The A train tracks from Howard Beach to the Rockaways were almost completely destroyed by the storm, and replacing them is a tremendous undertaking,” Cuomo said in a statement. “While that work continues, this new shuttle service will help improve travel for people in the Rockaways who are still recovering from Sandy’s effects.”

According to Cuomo's office, the cars that make up the new service were trucked to the Rockaways after the A train tracks were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. 

“MTA New York City Transit has responded with unprecedented creativity to restore subway service to Rockaway customers,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph J. Lhota. “This partial restoration of service is an important step for the Rockaways, but our work won’t be done until the A train is fully restored.”

The Rockaways are still in need of basic relief aid like shelter, food and heat.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made it clear he is angry at utility companies for their response to Hurricane Sandy. Thousands of people have been without power and heat for weeks and Cuomo has questioned whether the utilities were prepared for the storm despite fair warning. Now Cuomo has officially acted on his anger by issuing an executive order under the Moreland Act to form a commission to investigate all of the utilities that were charged with maintaining their infrastructure in the wake of Sandy.

Cuomo has repeatedly threatened the Legislature with the Moreland Act to get them to move on ethics legislation but he never used the authority in that case. Now Cuomo has chosen to invoke the power in the wake of Sandy. Utility companies are likely the only group more disliked by the Legislature, and the move is almost certain to boost Cuomo's already staggering approval ratings. 

Here is the make up of the commission that will hav ethe power to subpoena and examine witnesses under oath: 

Co-Chair Robert Abrams, former Attorney General of New York State
Co-Chair Benjamin Lawsky, Superintendent of the Department of Financial Services
Peter Bradford, former Chair of the Public Service Commission
Tony Collins, President of Clarkson University
John Dyson, former Chairman of the New York Power Authority
Rev. Floyd Flake, Senior Pastor of Greater Allen African Methodist Episcopal Cathedral
Mark Green, former New York City Public Advocate
Joanie Mahoney, Onondaga County Executive
Kathleen Rice, Nassau County District Attorney
Dan Tishman, Vice Chairman at AECOM Technology Corporation, and Chairman and CEO of Tishman Construction Corporation

And here is the Executive Order that Cuomo signed: 

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo has issued an executive order allowing voters displaced by Hurricane Sandy to vote at any polling place in the state.

Voters from the five boroughs can fill out an affidavit ballot at any polling place in the state and the local Board of Elections will then mail their ballots to the correct county.

However, ballots will only be available for local elections, so voters who are displaced out of their Senate or Assembly districts will only be able to vote for the statewide races. 

"We want everyone to vote. Just because you're displaced doesn't mean you should be disenfranchised," Cuomo said at a press conference this evening. 

The move could drive down turnout in lower-ballot races. The contest between Sen. Joe Addabbo and Councilman Eric Ulrich in Queens could be severely impacted. 

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Today's Lead Stories...

Partial Transit Restored, Free Rides


Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a traffic emergency for today and Friday making mass transit free for those using the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's busses and trains. "The service in many cases is limited, the service in many cases will be crowded," Cuomo said at a late night press conference in the city. The move came afterimmense gridlock Wednesday. City busses were jammed with commuters and gas lines stretched for over half a mile. Commuters who wish to drive into the city will have to car pool. The entire transportation infrastructure has yet to be restored with flooding still impeding some routes but partial service has been restored. Check out the MTA's post-storm stubway map




In the Press...

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After witnessing historic flooding and coastal surges caused by superstorm Sandy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says it is time for New Yorkers to examine how to adapt to more destructive weather events associated with climate change. 

“Going forward we are going to have to anticipate these types of extreme weather patterns,” Cuomo said at a news conference earlier today. “And we have to think about how we redesign the system so that this doesn’t happen again.”

And on Albany's Talk 1300 AM radio show, he said this: "The construction of the city did not anticipate these kinds of situations ... We are only a few feet above sea level. You now have a whole infrastructure under the city that fills. The subway system, the foundations of buildings."

But, as reporter Peter Moskowitz points out in his story for Gotham Gazette this week, there are few public policies creating incentives for public or private developers to invest money in adapting buildings for extreme weather events that could become more frequent with climate change.

Of course, it's unclear how much climate change can be blamed for Sandy or even Irene, or any particular extreme weather event — as The New York Times' Andrew Revkin says on his Dot Earth blog:

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo took to his official radio show this morning to have host Fred Dicker vet his latest policy ideas, including possible reforms to the state's ethics panel. Cuomo said he wants a,“campaign finance reform special session, and a JOPE reform special session.”

JCOPE was signed into law last Summer and only started functioning this past winter and yet reforming the organization is already on tap. 

Cuomo has been floating a series of ideas for a special session of the state Legislature that is expected to take place in November, including pay raises for legislators even though legislators are doing their best to convey just how horrible an idea they think pay raises would be. 

Other possible ideas include a minimum wage hike, making the Legislature subject to Freedom of Information Laws, strengthening gun laws, decriminalizing certain amounts of marijuana and somehow reforming public financing of campaigns. 

“We have a legislative agenda that has not been passed, which is the priority for me,” Cuomo said earlier this month at a graduation of the newest class of State Troopers. “If there is an opportunity for the Legislature to act, I’m going to be looking for them to act on the people’s agenda. I understand they may have an interest in a pay raise. I’m interested in a people’s agenda and that’s what the session would be about.“

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The top court in the state declined to hear an appeal from New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms on overturning the state's same-sex marriage law today. Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued this statement: 

Today, the New York State Court of Appeals, the highest court in the State, denied leave to appeal the validity of the Marriage Equality Act, which affords same-sex couples in this State the right to marry. New York State has served as a beacon for progressive ideals and this statute is a clear reminder of what this State stands for: equality and justice for all. With the Court’s decision, same-sex couples no longer have to worry that their right to marry could be legally challenged in this State. The freedom to marry in this State is secure for generations to come.

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The Cuomo Administration plans to try offering cash bonuses to Medicaid recipients who get regular check ups. The incentive will initially target 16,700 people with health problems like diabetes and hypertension. Meanwhile, community health advocates in the Bronx say more jobs for the community could improve the overall health of the borough. Also, the Health and Hospitals Corporation's inspector general will make more records available to the public after it was exposed to have failed to follow up on hundreds of cases.

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Sen. Joseph Addabbo has had a good start to his week. Yesterday, one of the most popular governors in the country (Andrew Cuomo) endorsed him.

Cuomo's endorsement has been a rare commodity for Senate Democrats, but Addabbo likely earned the endorsement by changing his 'no' vote on same-sex marriage to a 'yes' to help the governor score a major political victory

“Political courage, which is what Sen. Joe Addabbo exhibited, should be encouraged and should not be discouraged,” Cuomo said before marching in the Columbus Day parade. 

"This is not a man who makes endorsements on a whim," Addabbo told the Gazette today. "I appreciate his endorsement." 

However, a recent Siena College Poll shows that Addabbo's challenger, Councilman Eric Ulrich, is only two points behind him. It also appears that Ulrich has set the agenda for the race, or at least seized on what is most important to voters in his district by focusing his campaign on small business and jobs. Thirty-one percent of those polled by Siena said that jobs is the most important issue facing the district. Voters, however, rated Addabbo higher on job creation than Ulrich. 

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Bill Samuels, head of the New Roosevelt Initiative, wants campaign finance reform, and he wants it bad.

While other good government groups have their hopes set on a publicly funded campaign finance system that would be similar to New York City's, Samuels is a bit more flexible.

He notes that some legislators have objected to such a system because they don't think the state can afford to use tax revenues in that manner, others have objected that taxpayers won't want to see their money being used to finance the candidacies of people they don't agree with. (The Albany Times-Union reported last month that recent scandals may have derailed plans to push full public financing of state elections in a special session this year).

Samuels says that although he doesn't agree with them, he respects their opinion and thinks it may be  time people stop harping on the 'public' part of campaign financing.

His New Roosevelt Institute is exploring a number of ways to alternatively fund campaigns so that candidates will be on equal ground. 

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The state announced on Friday it would restart the regulatory rule-making process over hydraulic fracturing, pushing back a decision about approval into next year. This comes after the move to study fracking's impact on public health. The industry is worried Gov. Cuomo may not approve the drilling after all.

In the Press...

An ugly message sent on marriage vote (Albany Times Union)

State Senate Democrats to get campaign cash lifeline from teachers union (Daily News)

In Southeast Queens, epicenter of housing bust, holding onto homes still elusive (WNYC)

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The state's new property tax cap succeeded in its first year in holding average property tax growth to 2 percent – 40 percent less than the previous ten-year average, according to this report by Gov. Cuomo's office. Out of 3,077 local governments and school districts proposing a levy in the past year, the study found that 84 percent reported a levy within the capped amount.

Other highlights of the report include:
· 642 of 678 or 95 percent of school districts stayed within the cap.
· 1,944 of 2,399 or 81 percent of local governments that reported a proposed levy stayed within the cap.

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The sexual harassment scandal continues to remain the tops news today. The News reports that it was Assemblyman Vito Lopez who wanted the settlement payment to be kept from the public. Meanwhile, the Post finds sources who say Gov. Cuomo is worried that Assembly Speaker Silver may not survive the scandal. Silver has hired Mayor Bloomberg's former press secretary to help manage the situation. And finally, the fallout from Lopez's diminished stature has affected a number of primary races.

More headlines:

NYPD issues rules for use of social media during investigations

In quest for river’s power, an underwater test spin

Twitter must produce Occupy protester’s tweets: judge

Taxi TV to tell riders of scams