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Poll Targeting Brooklyn District Gauges Anti-IDC Sentiment

Jesse Hamilton IDC

Members of the IDC, including Sen. Hamilton (center), and others (photo: @IDC4NY)

A recent phone poll surveying residents of Senator Jesse Hamilton’s Brooklyn district asked residents to react to a number of statements associating the Independent Democratic Conference with President Donald Trump, among a variety of other questions, according to two residents of the district.

The polling was conducted “on behalf of a Democrat regarding state Senate elections in September 2018” by the Florida-based Kalamata Group, one resident, who took meticulous notes during a February 10 phone call, told Gotham Gazette.

Kalamata Group is associated with Global Strategy Group, which works closely with IDC, indicating that the poll was funded by the conference. Hamilton is one of eight members of the IDC, which forms a ruling coalition with the Senate Republicans, along with nominal Democrat Senator Simcha Felder. The alliance has been blamed for keeping Republicans in power in state government, effectively blocking the passage of key Democratic legislation, such as voting reforms, women’s reproductive health provisions, the Dream Act, and the Child Victims Act.

The breakaway Democrats, led by Senator Jeff Klein of the Bronx, are currently in talks to reunify with the mainline Democratic conference later this year, provided Democrats regain a total of 32 seats in the 63-seat chamber after a set of special elections in April, but that has not stopped a number of challengers, backed by a coalition of progressive activists, from launching primary challenges against IDC members.

One of the residents of Hamilton’s district, who was polled, lives in Prospect Heights and asked to remain anonymous. He said he was asked to indicate whether he approved or disapproved of the IDC, Jesse Hamilton, Zellnor Myrie -- a lawyer who is running in the Democratic primary against Hamilton in the fall -- Mayor Bill de Blasio, and President Donald Trump.

Several poll questions seem to evaluate whether Hamilton will be negatively impacted by criticisms that link him and his conference with Trump’s presidency, which appears to be hurting the Republican Party in New York. IDC challengers and their supporters have taken to calling IDC members “Trump Democrats.”

The poll, for example, asks residents to rank how convincing they found a series of statements about Hamilton’s record, with the pollster telling saying that the statements were from Hamilton’s opponents.

‘By aligning with the GOP in New York, Senator Jesse Hamilton is empowering Donald Trump’s agenda in New York. Trump Democrat Hamilton has sided with real estate groups and developers and has effectively blocked efforts to stand up to Trump’s destructive agenda on health care, education, immigrations, tenants rights, and climate change,’ read one statement, according to the resident.

The poll also tested several positive statements about the incumbent: ‘Hamilton secured $10 million to help provide legal services for immigrants. He is working to protect Dreamers in New York by helping to provide college assistance and stronger legal protections against Trump’s attack on so-called sanctuary cities,’ the pollster reportedly said, for example.

The poll also tested for two potential criticisms of Myrie. One referred to a charity he founded in 2009 that had its taxpayer authorization revoked by the IRS after he failed to file the paperwork, and another that he has no government experience and is linked to a local political machine.

After each segment of the poll, the resident was asked a variation of "If the primary were held today, and the candidates Jesse Hamilton and Zellnor Myrie, who would you vote for?" (See full details of the poll below, as noted by the resident from Prospect Heights.)

Barbara Brancaccio, a campaign spokesperson for Hamilton who works for Global Strategy Group, would not confirm that the IDC funded the poll, but as one political operative who Gotham Gazette briefed on the poll’s contents put it, “It's hard to imagine it not being the IDC. [Global Strategy Group] has a very long standing relationship with Jeff [Klein].”

Brancaccio said the survey amounts to standard polling that is done whenever there is an election, and that the campaign does not make the results of its polling public.

New York State law prohibits the partial release of political poll results, so candidates and campaigns often choose not to share their survey results.

Still, the founders of No IDC NY, a political campaign that backs IDC primary challengers, used the poll questions as an opportunity to take a swipe at the breakaway Democrats, noting that No IDC has conducted its own surveys through its collective phone-banking and text-messaging operations.

In the 20th Senate District, home to the Hamilton-Myrie primary, phone-bankers spoke with 1,119 voters, 83 percent of whom are negative on the IDC, said Gus Christensen, chief strategist of No IDC NY.

“The numbers are clear: the IDC has no base. Democratic voters are real Democrats, and real Democrats don't support turncoats who caucus with the Republicans. And I'm sure the only reason why the IDC won't release the results of their own polling is that it says the same thing, only in more detail,” said Christensen.

Polling experts say phone-banking is generally not a reliable method to determine voter behavior, since phone-bankers likely have their own biases, and their questions may not be balanced. Political polling companies also take steps to ensure that the demographic make-up of subjects polled is reflective of the district.

“It would be impossible for me to comment on any of these polls, not knowing the methodology behind them …but the key to making any survey scientifically accurate, is to ensure that you have a representative sample of the geography you are trying to poll,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg.

While overwhelmingly Democratic, Hamilton’s district is diverse and somewhat fragmented, including portions of Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Gowanus, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, and snaking down to South Slope, and Sunset Park.

Myrie, in an interview with Gotham Gazette, said it was fair for critics to associate his opponent with President Trump.

“In 2016, my opponent joined the Republican-friendly IDC within 24 hours of Donald Trump becoming the most regressive President our country has ever seen,” say Myrie. “Since that day, they both have pushed or supported the regressive Republican policies that have hurt my community...Republicans in the state Senate are lock and step with the Trump agenda, an agenda my opponent bolsters every single day as a member of the IDC.”


The following is lightly edited notes taken by one resident of the 20th State Senate District who was polled:

Do you have favorable or unfavorable view of:
-The IDC
-Jesse Hamilton
-Zellnor Myrie
-Bill de Blasio
-Donald Trump

If the primary were today, would you vote for Jesse Hamilton or Zellnor Myrie?

Do you approve or disapprove of the job Jesse Hamilton is doing?

What are the two most important issues that will impact your vote?

Would you prefer a a state senator who stands up to policies of Trump and Republicans in New York, or a state senator who addresses local issues?

I am going to read profiles and ask if you find them favorable or unfavorable.
-Democrat Zellnor Myrie is an attorney and local Democratic party leader. He will be a true Democrat in the New York State Senate, an anti-Trump leader who will fight to fully fund schools, will focus on affordable housing, including protecting tenants who are being thrown out of their homes. He will help pave the way for Andrea Stewart-Cousins to become the first African-American woman Senate Majority Leader.
-Democrat Jesse Hamilton, current state senator, brought in $1 million for community land trusts that work to build affordable housing. He won tougher rent projections and a freeze on rent for seniors. He brought back $1 billion for public schools. He helped establish the nation’s first free college tuition program for families earning [amount unclear]. Jesse Hamilton will continue to stand up against Trump, protect women, immigrants, civil rights, and healthcare gains made by President Obama.

If the primary were today, and candidates were Zellnor Myrie and Jesse Hamilton, for whom would you vote?

I will now read statements from supporters of Jesse Hamilton - how convincing do you find them?
-Jesse Hamilton founded United Against Violence Task Force to develop new ways for communities to respond to violence. He funded organizations like Save Our Streets and Cure Violence. He is making a real difference in making our streets safer.
-Jesse Hamilton succeeded in securing $10 million to help provide legal services for immigrants. He is working to protect Dreamers in New York by helping to provide college assistance and stronger legal protections against Trump’s attack on so-called Sanctuary Cities.
(Side note: The woman on the phone didn’t know what “Dreamers” referred to. She said “Dreamers...it’s apparently an organization he is fighting to protect.” She added, “I’m not from New York.”)
-Jesse Hamilton is taking a strong stand against Donald Trump’s attacks on immigrants and his attempts to roll back healthcare coverage, civil rights, marriage equality, and a woman’s right to choose, by writing protections against Trump into New York state law.
-Jesse Hamilton has been successful in bringing back hundreds of thousands of dollars for our school and community groups in need. Last year he secured funds for the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger, Brooklyn Legal Services, Caribbean Women’s Health Association, and Youth Represent.
-Jesse Hamilton is pushing for the Rider Relief Plan that would repair funding by nearly $900 million to reduce delays and overcrowding for New York subways.
-Jesse Hamilton supports true low-income housing, not multi-million-dollar condos at Bedford Armory. He will make housing more affordable by expanding the number of seniors who qualify for homeowner exemptions, and expand the number of people qualified for rent freezes. He will fight for more affordable housing in New York and strengthen laws to give jail time to landlords who are illegally raising rents.

Once again, if the NYS primary were today, would you vote for Jesse Hamilton or Zellnor Myrie?

Now I will read statements from opponents of Jesse Hamilton. How convincing do you find them?
-By aligning with the GOP in the New York State Senate, Jesse Hamilton is empowering Donald Trump’s agenda in New York. Trump Democrat Hamilton has sided with real estate groups and developers and has effectively blocked efforts to stand up to Trump’s destructive agenda on health care, education, immigrations, tenants rights, and climate change.
-The IDC, of which Jesse Hamilton is a member, took tens of thousands of dollars from one of the biggest landlord groups in the city, called REBNY, which has been working to end rent regulations and eliminate tenant protections.
-Jesse Hamilton is a member of the IDC, a group of state senators who ran for office as Democrats, but then aligned with the GOP once elected. This has resulted in GOP control of the Senate, in spite of the GOP being in the minority, and has allowed the conservative GOP to stop or water down Democratic priorities.
-Jesse Hamilton is a member of the IDC, some of whose members have been exposed for taking extra salary or better office space in exchange for aligning with the GOP in the State Senate. This scheme has involved making false statements, and has led to inquiries by the office of the New York State Attorney General and the United States Attorney in Brooklyn.

If the primary were today, who would you vote for?

I will now read statements from opponents of Zellnor Myrie. How convincing do you find them?
-Zellnor Myrie started a charity that critics said he launched simply to promote himself. He promptly lost interest and the charity had its taxpayer authorization revoked by the IRS, for failing the simple task of failing to file the proper forms.
-Zellnor Myrie has no government experience, but is relying on his political connections in the local party machine to get elected, and would serve their interest, not ours.

If primary were today, who would you vote for?

Then there were demographic questions at the end:
-Last grade of school completed?
-Anyone in household a member/retired from union?
-In politics, are you very liberal, somewhat liberal, moderate, somewhat conservative, very conservative.
-Religious background - protestant, catholic, muslim, jewish, something else?
-Do you receive more calls on landline or cell phone
-Can I use your first name?

by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

The Women In ‘The Room’

Cuomo Stewart-Cousins

Gov. Cuomo and Sen. Stewart-Cousins (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)

What would New York State’s budget look like if women were in charge? That is this year’s $168-billion question.

For decades, the final details and compromises in New York’s annual budget have been decided by the so-called “three men in the room,” or the leaders of the two legislative houses and the governor, but with workplace sexual harassment at the forefront this year, it seems that at least one woman will be included in parts of the closed-door talks.

The “three men” -- in recent years four men: Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Independent Democratic Conference Leader Senator Jeff Klein, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie -- is a term first attributed to Albany’s budget process in a 1988 Newsday article and later popularized by former state lawmaker Seymour Lachman, who wrote a book called “Three Men in a Room.” The phrase has become synonymous with Albany’s culture of secrecy and backroom dealings, but it also implicates the gender imbalance that has long plagued the center of power in New York.

Now, amid a national reckoning around sexual misconduct, an effort is being made to elevate female voices in state government as the executive and legislative branches scramble to come up with an acceptable policy response. In addition to workplace protections, Cuomo’s extensive women’s rights agenda includes codification of Roe v. Wade abortion protections, legislation combating revenge porn, and a mandate that free feminine hygiene products to be provided in public school restrooms.

Facing pressure from advocates, editorial boards, and others to include female representation during final negotiations of a new budget -- which is expected to include a statewide anti-harassment policy for government officials -- Cuomo recently announced that the only female legislative conference leader, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, will for the first time play a role in deciding the legislation that goes into the final budget documents.

“Leader Stewart-Cousins will be included in negotiations on the ‎sexual-harassment bill, as well as a wide range of other issues being dealt with in this year’s budget,” a Cuomo spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal.

Notably, the negotiations will occur as Klein is being investigated for allegedly forcing a kiss with an aide in 2015.

While it is not clear what that range of other issues will cover, Stewart-Cousins -- who has long demanded inclusion in budget talks, to no avail -- said at a press conference on the Child Victims Act (CVA), that she will use the opportunity to fight for other bills put forward by her conference that have long stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate.

“When I’m in the room, you can be sure that I will be advocating for this, and other things that our conference is carrying and pushing forward,” Stewart-Cousins said of CVA, adding that by representing the 21-member conference (in the 63-seat chamber), she brings with her “the voices of half of New York.”

The Child’s Victims Act, which has been in limbo for 10 years, lifts New York’s statute of limitations to match that of other states, making it easier for victims of child sexual abuse to bring charges against their abusers. Other big ticket items on the table this year -- many of them carried by members of the Democratic conference -- include gun control, early voting, a state tax overhaul, and criminal justice reforms.

How Stewart-Cousins’ presence in “the room,” typically the governor’s office on the second floor of the state Capitol, shapes the final budget bills, or whether more women-centered legislation and other bills carried by her conference will rise to the top, remains to be seen. While her involvement in leaders’ meetings is a notable start, as one of five powerbrokers in “the room,” there will still be a lopsided ratio considering New York’s female-heavy electorate, according to Dina Refki, executive director of the Center for Women in Government & Civil Society at Albany University.

“Research tells us that when women are outnumbered, their voices tend to be silenced,” said Refki. “Of course, Andrea Stewart-Cousins is a strong legislator, and it’s a good thing to have, but if we are looking at research, we tend to believe that women need to be represented in sufficient numbers to have a meaningful impact on the process.”

Government reformers note that the power in the room is already tilted in favor of the executive, due to the 2004 Silver v. Pataki Court of Appeals decision, which bars the Legislature from making changes to any part of an appropriations bill, short of rejecting the entire bill. The main leverage the legislative leaders have during talks is the ability to delay the budget, which is bound to draw criticism of Albany’s dysfunction from the public and editorial boards, according to former Assemblymember-turned-professor Richard Brodsky.

“You cannot govern a state in perpetuity based upon a tyrannical executive power -- and that’s what we have. If you want to reform government, adjust the balance of power,” said Brodsky.

Tyrannical power or not, having the governor’s ear during those final hours is valuable and if political science studies are any indicator, Stewart-Cousins’ involvement may help tip the scales in favor of better legislative outcomes for women. There is a large body of data indicating that female representation in government leads to the passage of more legislation on issues of concern to women -- whether protections for women’s health, workplace equity, or paid family leave, for example -- but only when there is a “critical mass” of female representation. Political scientists disagree on the exact tipping point, pegging it at 15, 20, 25, or 30 percent.

While the final decision-makers in Albany have historically all been male, there are often women in the room in a supportive or advisory capacity, and numerous female lawmakers who lead legislative committees are heavily involved in budgetary proceedings. At every stage there is an opportunity to women influence the content and the shape of the budget, according to Refki.

“Women are not monolithic. They don’t all think the same, or act in the same way, but by virtue of their socialization as women, they tend to see women-centered issues as priorities,” she said. “The presence of women at each juncture in the process at least brings a voice that could influence what takes shape at the end.”

Melissa DeRosa Cuomo aideMelissa DeRosa, now Cuomo’s top aide as secretary to the governor, has long been involved in budget conversations, including in her previous role as Cuomo’s chief of staff. DeRosa and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul both chair Cuomo’s newly-created Council on Women and Girls, which helped develop his women’s agenda this year, a spokesperson from Cuomo’s office said.

Hochul, while not directly involved in budget negotiations, aids the process by promoting key pieces of the governor's budget agenda around the state. When interviewed about Hochul’s reelection campaign last month, her chief of staff told Gotham Gazette that she is “focused on ensuring an on-time budget.”

Cuomo has brought a number of women into his inner circle in the past year, including re-hiring former federal prosecutor Linda Lacewell, now as his chief of staff, and Cathy Calhoun as his director of state operations. Lacewell replaced DeRosa (pictured), who was promoted to Cuomo’s top advisory position last year, becoming the first woman to hold the position.

Legislative leaders also have top female aides. Often accompanying Heastie during budget dealings are Louann Ciccone, secretary of program and counsel, and Kathleen O’Keefe, his legislative counsel. To help create policy responses to sexual harassment issues, Heastie has composed a work group of 15 lawmakers, 10 of them female.

“Sexual harassment must be confronted head-on,” said Heastie in a statement. “I look forward to the recommendations of this workgroup so that we can develop a statewide legislative solution to this very serious problem.”

Klein, whose Independent Democratic Conference forms a ruling coalition with the Senate Republicans, also has a female chief of staff, Dana Carotenuto Rico, who typically joins him in “the room.” Other times, IDC members who have expertise in a particular subject are called in, an IDC spokesperson said. For example, in 2017, Senator Diane Savino and Senator Jesse Hamilton were invited into the governor’s chamber to discuss details of legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility.

Additionally, women play a role at many turns in budgetary proceedings leading up to the final negotiations. The Legislature’s joint budget hearings, which take place in February, are now headed by female lawmakers, and when one-house agendas are released, female staffers from legislative and executive offices participate in subsequent meetings on various budgetary categories called “tables.”

Two women now hold the Legislature’s most powerful committee chair posts: Senate Finance Chair Kathy Young, an upstate Republican, and Assembly Ways and Means Chair Helene Weinstein, a Brooklyn Democrat. The two women, along with IDC’s Senator Savino, of Staten Island, is vice chair of the Senate finance committee, must attend all of legislative budget hearings, which sometimes run late into the night. These hearings help inform one-house budget proposals, conference discussions, and larger budget negotiations, according to those with knowledge of the budget process.

Scott Reif, a spokesperson for Flanagan, said that Young is extensively involved in negotiations on the state budget and that other female staff members advise the leader on key issues related to the budget, like sexual harassment, criminal justice, and education. Reif did not indicate that any of the women are in the negotiating room when the final budget bills are decided.

by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

The Week Ahead in New York Politics, March 5

New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

This week will see the beginning of preliminary budget hearings at the City Council, where Council members will hear from representatives of the de Blasio administration about the mayor's proposed budget for next fiscal year, which begins July 1, and ask questions about how money is being allocated, savings, and more.

Key details of the city budget that is agreed upon later this year by Mayor de Blasio and the Council will depend on the next state budget, which is due by the April 1 start of the state fiscal year. Budget negotiations may heat up this week in Albany, with just a few weeks to go, though they really move much closer to the deadline. The Legislature is in session three days this week.

Hanging over state business are both the federal corruption trial of Governor Andrew Cuomo's former top aide, Joe Percoco, which is now in jury deliberations after closing arguments last week and this year's state-level elections, including the race for governor. While Cuomo has said he is seeking a third term this year, who his Republican opponent will be remains to be seen. State Senator John DeFrancisco has been seen as the frontrunner, but it appears that Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro has reconsidered his declaration that he would not run and is jumping into the fray. An announcement from Molinaro is expected this week.

An announcement that is not expected this week is that of the next New York City schools chancellor. After Mayor de Blasio indicated a pick and placed a news story announcing Alberto Carvalho as the next chancellor, to replace the retiring Carmen Fariña, Carvalho backed out in dramatic fashion, deciding to stay in Miami, Florida instead. The mayor said he was surprised and frustrated, but that the national search had already resumed. Fariña will stay on through the end of March, de Blasio said.

De Blasio will dabble in national politics again this week, he's due to co-host a fundraiser for Randy Bryce, who is challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin.

Those are a few highlights, but as always, there are many 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:

At the City Council on Monday preliminary budget hearings will begin with a general overview hearing at 10 a.m., focused on the mayor’s preliminary budget, featuring representatives of the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Finance, Comptroller Scott Stringer, and the Independent Budget Office, among others that may testify. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson will deliver opening remarks.

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

At 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall, Speaker Johnson will co-host a Greek Independence Celebration.

At 6:30 p.m. Monday, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and BetaNYC will host Open Data Training for Community Boards, at the Borough President’s Office.

On Monday at 6:30 p.m., National Action Network, elected officials, parents, and others are hosting an "emergency town hall meeting on safety and security in public schools." Participants will include Minister Kirsten John Foy & National Action Network, PS 11 PTA, NYS Dep. Sec. Public Safety Richard White, Public Advocate Letitia James, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, City Council Member Laurie Cumbo, DOE/NYPD Security & Safety Team. The town hall will occur at "419 Waverly Avenue, Brooklyn New York Between Greene and Gates avenue."

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

At 7 p.m., Brewer will present a proclamation at Young People’s Chorus of NYC 30th anniversary gala, Lincoln Center. And at about 7:30 p.m., Brewer will visit the Society of Foreign Consuls in New York’s International Women’s Day event at Bohemian National Hall.

At the City Council on Tuesday, there will be a preliminary budget hearing on Higher Education at 2:30 p.m., regarding CUNY.

Also at the City Council on Tuesday:
--The Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss several proposed laws relating to litter and rodents.
--The Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet at 2:30 p.m.
--The Committee on Land Use will meet at 3 p.m.

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

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, the New York City Bar Association will host “The State of Criminal Discovery in New York State,” discussing “the current law applicable to criminal discovery in New York State courts; responses to the Criminal Law Committee's statewide survey of the judiciary, defense bar and district attorneys regarding current practices; criminal discovery law in other states; and proposed reforms.” Panelists will include Kristin Braun of the Legal Aid Society, Matthew McCann of the Law Office of Alan S. Futerfas, and former New York Supreme Court Justice James Yates. The panel will be moderated by Monica Hickey-Martin of the MTA Office of the Inspector General.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Association for a Better New York will host “Covering the City Hall Beat: A Conversation with NYC Journalists” at the Tribeca Grill. Fordham political science professor Dr. Christina Greer will moderate a panel consisting of Mara Gay of the Wall Street Journal, J. David Goodman of the New York Times, Yoav Gonen of the New York Post, and Jillian Jorgensen of the New York Daily News.

Mayor de Blasio will host a fundraiser on Wednesday for Randy “Iron Stache” Bryce, who is challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan for his house seat in Wisconsin.

The full City Council will hold a “stated meeting” at City Hall at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Also at the City Council on Wednesday: The Committee on Rules, Elections, and Privileges will meet at 10:30 a.m. to receive three nominations from the Mayor for appointments to city agencies: Fernando Bohorquez and Anthony Crowell for the Conflicts of Interest Board, and Salvatore Scibetta for the Board of Standards and Appeals.

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

At the City Council on Thursday, the following committees will hold preliminary budget hearings:
--Transportation at 9:30 a.m., regarding the MTA
--Fire and Emergency Management at noon, regarding Fire/Emergency Medical Service and the Office of Emergency Management
--For-Hire Vehicles at 1:30 p.m., regarding the Taxi and Limousine Commission
--Transportation and the Capital Budget at 3 p.m., regarding the DOT expense and capital budgets

Thursday is International Women’s Day. It will be marked by commemorations by public officials as well as marches and strikes by advocacy groups.

At 8 a.m. Thursday, City & State will host “Is Closing Rikers a Dream or a Reality” at the New York Academy of Sciences. The event will feature a one-on-one interview between City & State editor Jon Lentz and Elias Husamudeen, President of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, followed by a panel discussing the impacts of closing Rikers and potential solutions to the problem of safety in the city’s jails, featuring Husamudeen, Queens ADA James Quinn, and City Council Members Joe Borelli and Keith Powers.

At 10 a.m. Thursday, the New York City Campaign Finance Board will hold a board meeting at 100 Church Street.

At 3 p.m. Thursday, Council Speaker Corey Johnson will join NY1 anchor Errol Louis and the CUNY Journalism School’s Center for Community and Ethnic Media for a discussion regarding “his vision for the City Council, the legislative agenda, increased oversight of city agencies and departments and maintaining the City Council's independence.” Also discussed will be issues relevant to community and ethnic media, and the Council’s relationship with the media. The event will take place at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in Midtown. Louis will be joined by Debralee Santos of the Manhattan Times and Stephon Johnson of the New York Amsterdam News.

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

At the City Council on Friday, the following committees will hold preliminary budget hearings:
--Economic Development at 10 a.m., regarding EDC
--Consumer Affairs and Business Licensing at 11 a.m., regarding the Department of Consumer Affairs and the new Mayor’s Office of Nightlife.
--Small Business at 1 p.m., regarding the Department of Small Business Services.

At 8:15 a.m. Friday, the Center for New York City Law at New York Law School will host Patrick Foye, President of the MTA, at its 150th “CityLaw Breakfast.” The discussion will center around “Innovation & Reform: Building Toward a New MTA.”

At 9 a.m. Friday, the Center for New York City Affairs will host “Getting Proactive in the Preserving & Strengthening of Human Services in NY,” discussing “the economic and social impact of human services CBOs, and the need to preserve and strengthen their critical role in building foundational supports that contribute to the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities.” Fordham political science professor Christina Greer will moderate a panel consisting of Herminia Palacio, the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services; Fran Barrett, Interagency Coordinator for Nonprofits in the Governor’s Office; Dylan Roberts, of Oliver Wyman; Emary Aronson, Chief Program Officer of the Robin Hood Foundation; and Ariel Zwang, CEO of Safe Horizon.

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

After Prosecutors' Final Rebuttal, Jury Deliberations Begin in Percoco Trial

 percoco legal team

Joseph Percoco, rear, his legal team, and others (photo: Samar Khurshid)

Jury deliberations began Thursday in the federal corruption trial of Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo, and three corporate executives who were allegedly involved in a criminal conspiracy to pay Percoco bribes in exchange for favorable official actions in their efforts to do business with the state government.

In federal district court in lower Manhattan on Thursday morning, the prosecution offered its rebuttal to the defense’s closing arguments from the previous two days, capping a six-week long trial that has exposed the inner workings of the state government and put on display the actions and behavior of Percoco, whom Cuomo once referred to as “my father's third son.” The trial has raised questions about what Cuomo knew about Percoco’s activities, including his former top aide’s use of a government office while technically on leave to run Cuomo’s reelection campaign.

The charges against Percoco and his co-defendants -- Peter Galbraith Kelly, Joseph Gerardi and Steven Aiello -- stem from two separate bribery schemes tied together by the government’s key witness, former lobbyist Todd Howe, who pleaded guilty to facilitating payments totalling more than $300,000 from the executives to Percoco and his wife, Lisa Percoco.

Percoco and the others have been charged with ten felony counts of solicitation and payment of bribes and gratuities, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, extortion under the color of official right and conspiracy to commit extortion under the color of official right, wire fraud, and making false statements to federal investigators. (One extortion charge, related to actions Percoco took while he was working on the governor’s reelection campaign in 2014, was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni on Monday.)

One of the schemes involved real estate developer COR Development and it’s executives Gerardi and Aiello. The second involved energy firm Competitive Power Ventures and Kelly, who is accused of giving Percoco’s wife a “low-show” job paying $90,000 annually.

The defense largely based its case on attacking Howe’s credibility as a witness, claiming that he manipulated Percoco and the others into the schemes. Once he was caught for his own crimes, the defense attorneys claimed, he pointed fingers to try and reduce his prison sentence. That argument was bolstered in part when Howe was arrested during the trial for violating his cooperation agreement with the government.

Prosecutors, however, have pointed to other evidence, including thousands of emails, that they say shows the corrupt agreements struck between the defendants. Howe’s testimony formed only a part of their case, they claim, and was far from the foundation of the prosecution.

“Their best defense is to make you think it all comes down to Todd Howe,” said prosecutor Janis Echenberg, in the government’s rebuttal Thursday morning. “See the defense arguments for what they are. They are asking for a free pass. They’re saying ‘We dealt with a bad guy so we should get away with it.’”

Echenberg also sought to counter the “friendship defense” forwarded by attorneys for both Percoco and Kelly, who claimed that the two did favors for each others because they were close friends. One example the defense cited was Percoco and Kelly going on a fishing trip together.

“This whole fishing sideshow,” Echenberg told the jury, “You’re being played hook, line and sinker.”

“Even if there was a friendship between them...you don’t get a pass on bribery just because you’re bribing a friend,” she added.

After Echenberg’s plea to the jury for a guilty verdict, Judge Caproni addressed the jury, reading through a 40-page booklet of all the charges against the defendants and instructing them to carefully consider their decision.

Later in the day, the jury sought clarification on whether Percoco had to have been a public official throughout the duration of the two schemes he is accused of participating in in order to be found guilty. The prosecution had argued that though Percoco left state government to work on the governor’s reelection campaign, he still wielded his influence within state government to pressure officials for favorable action towards his co-defendants. The defense, on the other hand, in the words of Percoco’s lawyer Barry Bohrer, said Percoco couldn’t possibly have been “selling his office” during the campaign since “he had no office to sell.”

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

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What's The [Data] Point? 86, with Stanley Fischer

whats the data point

What's The [Data] Point? Episode 32 -- 86, with Stanley Fischer [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]

stanley fischer cbc ann dinner2

Former Federal Reserve Vice-Chair Stanley Fischer accepted the Felix G. Rohatyn Award, which recognizes legendary champions of New York and sound fiscal management, at the Citizens Budget Commission awards dinner on Wednesday, February 28. This episode of the podcast features Fischer's remarks about his work.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (@TweetBenMax), Maria Doulis of CBC (@MariaDoulis) and guest Stanley Fischer. Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

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Conflict Escalates Between Working Families Party and Independent Democratic Conference

IDC opponents

Zellnor Myrie, center, and other IDC challengers

The Working Families Party is escalating its efforts to unseat members of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference of the New York State Senate. The WFP, a progressive political party that regularly cross-endorses Democrats, is rolling out additional endorsements of candidates challenging IDC members in this year’s elections, which include all the seats in the state Legislature.

The IDC has a power-sharing agreement with Senate Republicans that helps keep the GOP in control of the upper chamber of the Legislature, Republicans’ only stronghold in state government.

Awareness of the eight-member IDC has grown recently and anti-IDC organizing has increased dramatically since the election of Donald Trump as president and a corresponding increased recognition of the importance of state governments, and specifically party control of the state Senate in New York.

The WFP -- which offers organizing and fundraising help to its candidates -- recently announced the endorsement of three IDC challengers: Jessica Ramos; Alessandra Biaggi, and Rachel May. On Wednesday, the WFP endorsed three others: Zellnor Myrie, John Duane, and Jasmin Robinson. On Thursday night, the party endorsed a seventh candidate, Robert Jackson.

These candidates are challenging IDC Senators Jose Peralta, Jeff Klein, Dave Valeski, Jesse Hamilton, Tony Avella, Diane Savino, and Marisol Alcantara, respectively. The WFP does not yet have an announced candidate to take on Senator David Carlucci.

On Sunday, the WFP is holding a rally in Brooklyn to bring its endorsed state Senate candidates together, as well as to formally back United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. The event, to be held at Medgar Evers College, is being billed as the 2018 “campaign kickoff rally” of the “progressive insurgence,” according to the WFP event listing. “This is the first time these Working Families Democrats will share a stage,” said an email from the WFP encouraging people to attend. “[W]e need all hands on deck to elect a progressive majority to the State Senate.”

The rally is being co-hosted by several groups that have sprung up in recent months with a focus on local politics, defeating IDC members, and moving New York leftward. These include True Blue NY, No IDC NY, New York Progressive Action Network, Empire State Indivisible and local “Indivisible” chapters. These groups held a press conference at City Hall on Thursday to back an initial handful of the IDC challengers. It was headlined by Zephyr Teachout, who ran a grassroots Democratic primary challenge to Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2014 (without WFP support).

An added element of conflict -- and intrigue -- for Sunday is a rally being organized by Senator Hamilton’s office, set for outside Medgar Evers College at the same time participants will be arriving for the WFP rally. Hamilton has a district office nearby, and his team has put together what is billed as a “Black Minds Matter Rally.” Purportedly, the rally is “in support of black history education” and Hamilton’s bill that seeks to build a path toward the mandated teaching of black history in New York schools.

However, the Hamilton-led rally, organized by his government office, is being called a fairly obvious response to the WFP campaign event. Hamilton’s office had asked Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN) to participate, and its leadership agreed, but that changed when the apparent but unsaid motives for the rally became clear.

"While NAN strongly supports badly needed efforts to bolster black history education, organizers of the Black Minds Matter Rally on March 4th neglected to inform us that their event was a thinly veiled counterprotest of the Working Families Party's rally on behalf of a number of their endorsed candidates,” said Kirsten John Foy, northeast regional direction for NAN, in a statement to Gotham Gazette.

“Given our strong collaboration with WFP and other grassroots groups in the resistance against Trump's attacks on people of color and working people everywhere, we want to clarify that we do not support this counter-protest," Foy said.

Past and current flyers for the Hamilton rally show NAN as a partner and not.

Reached for comment, a spokesperson for Hamilton responded with a clarifying question, but, once it was answered, did not offer any clarity about the event or response to Foy’s assertion.

The WFP describes the IDC as “a group of 8 turncoat Democrats who empower Republican senate leadership.” Candidates seeking to unseat IDC members regularly refer to them as “Trump Democrats.” They say that the IDC is part of what is holding New York back from enacting a sweeping progressive agenda including more school aid, more stringent rent regulations, universal health care coverage, codification of Roe v. Wade abortion protections, and more. IDC members, led by Klein, say that they are able to influence legislation and budgetary priorities in the Senate and also bring home added spoils to their districts because of the power-sharing agreement.

“The Working Families Party is proud to support this slate of progressive challengers,” said Bill Lipton, director of the New York Working Families Party, in a statement to Gotham Gazette about the IDC challengers. “Unlike the incumbents who voted to install a Trump loyalist as leader of the state senate, these Working Families Democrats are committed to supporting the progressive leadership of Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on day one. Only when progressives hold the gavel can we actually deliver on the progressive agenda working families demand: fair funding for public schools and universities, stronger rent laws, real criminal justice reform and so much more.”

While the progressive backers of the IDC challengers are rallying and preparing for a big push through primary day in September, a tentative Democratic unity deal hangs in the background. Cuomo, a second-term Democrat who has had an up-and-down relationship with the WFP and other progressives, has helped orchestrate an agreement for mainline Senate Democrats and the IDC to join forces based on a number of factors, starting with Democrats winning two special Senate elections taking place April 24 to fill vacant seats.

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

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Defense Concludes Closing Arguments in Percoco Trial

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Barry Bohrer and his client, Joseph Percoco, behind (photo: Samar Khurshid)

Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo, was not “one of the most powerful officials in state government,” argued Barry Bohrer, Percoco’s defense attorney, on Wednesday, the second day of closing arguments in the federal corruption trial of Percoco and three corporate executives, Joseph Gerardi, Steven Aiello, and Peter Galbraith Kelly.

Percoco and the others face charges of bribery, fraud, and bid-rigging related to two separate schemes involving state contracts. The prosecution, which made its own closing argument on Tuesday, has alleged that Percoco used the immense power at his disposal to assist his co-defendants. “For a state employee, getting a call from Percoco was like getting a call from the governor himself,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Boone in his opening statement when the trial began six weeks ago.

But Bohrer sought to counter that image, which he said was conjured by prosecutors and former lobbyist Todd Howe, a cooperating government witness who pleaded guilty to several felonies and admitted to facilitating the bribes that Percoco allegedly received.  

Attorneys for each of the four defendants hammered home the notion that Howe is an unreliable witness who has sought to scapegoat their clients for his own misdoings and criminal schemes. Bohrer, who spoke last and longest over the last two days, said, in the government and Howe’s view, “apparently, there’s no one bigger than Joe Percoco. But you know from the evidence that that’s an exaggeration, that’s a stretch, that’s Todd Howe in action.”

Bohrer downplayed the influence that Percoco had in state government, calling him more of an “advance man” for the governor whose duties included office management, personnel relations, intergovernmental relations, and labor relations. Percoco was not “the guy who ruled the roost” in New York State, Bohrer said, but rather “the guy who takes care of his friends,” “who rolls out the red carpet,” “who greets them with a firm handshake.”

Percoco, he said, never entered into a “corrupt bargain” to sell his office for personal gain and that the actions he is accused of taking to benefit his co-defendants were simply favors for his friends.

“The government’s case is all talk, no action -- certainly no official action,” Bohrer said Wednesday, emphasizing that the definition of an official act under federal corruption statutes is limited.  

As with the other attorneys, Bohrer described Howe as a “pathological liar, a congenital liar,” who exploited the better nature of the individuals on trial, who were his close friends. “Todd Howe described Joe Percoco as a brother, just like Cain described Abel,” he said.

Howe, who was a go-between for Percoco and the other defendants, has a long history with both Percoco and Cuomo and a checkered past, with a prior felony conviction and a laundry list of misdeeds to his name. During the course of the trial, in which thousands of emails were entered into evidence, much of that was laid bare, including Howe’s tendency to alter emails when forwarding them to others to either bolster his own standing or to mislead the recipients of those emails. “Mr. Howe was the butcher of emails. He was Mr. Cut and Mr. Paste,” Bohrer said.

Bohrer also rejected the prosecution’s contention that Percoco turned to a criminal conspiracy because he faced financial troubles. That was just another lie manufactured by Howe, Bohrer insisted. “Mr. Todd ‘Ransom’ Howe...he thought he could save himself by providing ‘substantial assistance in the prosecution of another,’” he said, using a legal term in Howe’s cooperation agreement with the government.  

Earlier in the day, Daniel Gitner, the lawyer for Peter Galbraith Kelly, had also concluded his closing statement, reiterating that the government was attempting to “whitewash” Howe’s part in the prosecution.  

On Tuesday, prosecutors summed up their case, arguing that the defense attorneys would attempt to confuse the jury and complicate a corruption case that involved a very straightforward quid-pro-quo between the defendants. Bohrer, in turn, said Wednesday that it was the prosecution that had muddied the waters, particularly by repeatedly citing emails in which Howe and Percoco spoke of “ziti,” a term that the prosecution said they adopted from the television show “The Sopranos” as a code for bribes.

“It’s not the language of criminals,” Bohrer said, in a reference to the prosecution’s closing argument from Tuesday, “just because someone watches “The Sopranos” and picks up a phrase from “The Sopranos.” Millions of people would be in jumpsuits if they watched “The Sopranos” and picked up the language, if that were the case.”

“You’ll find 16 ‘ziti’ emails and the score is 14 to 2,” he said, insisting that the term originated with Howe. “There are 14 instances in which Howe mentions the word and two where Joe does.”

Outside the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan, in brief comments to reporters, Bohrer again criticized the prosecution’s focus on the “ziti.”

“It has been a diversion,” he said, when asked by a reporter. “The evidence is totally lacking with regards to the changes.”

Percoco stood somber behind Bohrer, betraying little emotion. When asked how he felt about his lawyer’s closing, he said, “Barry’s doing all the talking now. He’s doing great.”

On Thursday morning, prosecutors will offer their rebuttal to the defense’s closing arguments. They will have a total of two hours to do so, Judge Valerie Caproni said Wednesday. The judge will then read all the charges to the jury and they will likely head into deliberations Thursday afternoon.

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

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Senate Candidates Outline Primary Campaigns Against ‘Trump Democrats’

jackson ramos presser

Jessica Ramos and Robert Jackson

The eight-member Independent Democratic Conference of the New York State Senate has drawn increasing ire from Democrats around the state, especially in New York City. Democratic senators who have broken away from their colleagues in the regular Democratic conference, IDC senators form a power-sharing agreement with Senate Republicans, helping the GOP enhance its razor thin majority. The Senate is the only current Republican stronghold in state government.

Several factors, including the election of Donald Trump as President, have led to increased awareness about the IDC, and most IDC members are now facing primary challenges from the left in this election year where all seats in the state Legislature are on the ballot.

Jessica Ramos and Robert Jackson are two candidates taking on IDC members: Jose Peralta of Queens and Marisol Alcantara of Manhattan, respectively. On Monday, Ramos and Jackson joined the Max & Murphy Podcast from Gotham Gazette and City Limits to discuss their candidacies, why they are taking on the “Trump Democrats” of the IDC, and more.

“I’m running for state Senate because the Queens I was born in, the Queens that I’m raising two sons in, the Queens I love, isn’t being represented in the state Senate,” Ramos said, indicating that the anti-IDC push is aimed at ensuring “real” Democrats occupy seats in the Legislature, not “turncoat” elected officials, as Jackson put it. Both candidates agreed that the IDC was helping Republicans stand in the way of a more progressive state.

They called discretionary funding that IDC members bring back to their districts “blood money,” the spoils of a rotten power grab.

Jackson, a former City Council member, is running in the Democratic primary for the 31st State Senate District against incumbent Sen. Alcantara, who was first elected to the seat in 2016, narrowly defeating Jackson and Micah Lasher, who came in second and is backing Jackson this time around, in a contentious primary. The district encompasses much of the west side of Manhattan, from Hell's Kitchen to Inwood.

Ramos, a former aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio, is a first-time candidate, running against Sen. Peralta, who was first elected in 2010 to represent the 13th State Senate District, which includes communities of Jackson Heights, Corona, and East Elmhurst in central and northwestern Queens.

While the IDC has claimed it is able to work with Senate Republicans to pass more progressive legislation than would otherwise be passed, Ramos, Jackson, and other IDC critics have sought to debunk that claim. The legislation has been “watered down,” Jackson said, referring to things like the state’s relatively new minimum wage program, and Ramos agreed.

“They're eating crumbs off the Republican plates,” Jackson said of IDC members.

Ramos describes funding IDC members get -- often significantly more than mainline Democratic senators and even some members of the Republican conference -- as “payment that they are receiving in exchange for supporting the Republican majority, and lest we forget that that discretionary funding is actually our very own taxpayer dollars.” The funding, she says, is more about politics than really serving the district.

“Every single district that has New Yorkers that pay taxes should be receiving the same amount of funding,” Ramos said.

“The bigger picture,” Jackson said, “is all of the legislative stuff that can be done, that’s where our people are going to benefit from.”

Both Ramos and Jackson said that replacing IDC members with true Democrats would help lead New York in a more progressive direction. In total, they listed more than half a dozen bills or programs that they believe a Democratic majority in the Senate could deliver, including more education funding, single-payer health care, codification of Roe v. Wade abortion protections into state law, and more.

The two candidates touted early endorsements they’ve received, such as Ramos getting the backing of The Working Families Party.

During the podcast the candidates answered questions about their records on particular issues, whether they have a path to victory, and other tougher subjects than simply going on the attack against the incumbents they hope to unseat.

Ramos, for example, worked for de Blasio, and has to navigate how she approaches the mayor during her campaign. She discussed her work at City Hall whether she expects the mayor to campaign for her leading up to September’s primary vote.

Listen to the full Max & Murphy episode with Jessica Ramos and Robert Jackson here, or find Max & Murphy wherever you get your podcasts.

by Matthew Sweeney, Gotham Gazette

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Ben Max contributed to this article.

Prosecutors Make Closing Argument in Trial of Former Top Cuomo Aide

Cuomo Percoco

Governor Cuomo (photo: Mike Groll/Governor's Office)

The federal corruption trial of Joseph Percoco, a former top aide and close ally of Governor Andrew Cuomo, and three co-defendants reached near conclusion with prosecutors making closing arguments to the jury on Tuesday.

Percoco and the three others, all corporate executives, face several bribery, bid-rigging and fraud charges related to state contracts sought by the companies represented by Percoco’s co-defendants. Percoco was charged with accepting bribes amounting to more than $300,000 from the three businessmen -- Joseph Gerardi, Steven Aiello and Peter Galbraith Kelly -- with whom he was involved in a broad criminal conspiracy, prosecutors have alleged.

At a federal court in lower Manhattan, prosecutor David Zhou summarized more than six weeks of testimony in a final plea to jurors for a guilty verdict, reading a selection from thousands of emails that were presented as evidence in the trial.

“‘Where the hell is the ziti?’” Zhou cited from an email sent by Percoco from his personal AOL account to lobbyist Todd Howe, a former lobbyist and Cuomo ally who played middleman in the conspiracy and is a cooperating government witness who pleaded guilty to several counts himself. The term “ziti” was thrown around hundreds of times between Howe and Percoco, old friends, and referred to bribes, as appropriated by the men from “The Sopranos,” the popular television show featuring the eponymous mafia family.

“These are Joe Percoco’s own words...begging, requesting, demanding ‘ziti,’” Zhou told the jurors.

Zhou meticulously laid out the prosecution’s case over the course of about three hours, detailing how Percoco allegedly wielded his powerful position in the governor’s office to take favorable official actions towards two firms, COR Development and Competitive Power Ventures, in corrupt exchanges with executives from the companies. Howe, in turn, funnelled payments from the firms to Percoco and to his wife, Lisa Percoco, who received a “low-show” job from CPV paying $90,000 a year for little work. “Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve put more time into this trial than Lisa Percoco did from her $90,000-a-year job,” Zhou said.

The prosecution’s case was complicated when, earlier this month, Howe admitted to attempted credit card fraud on the witness stand, violating his cooperation agreement with the government and leading to his arrest as the trial progressed.

As they began their closing arguments, lawyers for the defense emphasized Tuesday that Howe is an unreliable witness who is attempting to save himself from jail time.

The prosecution tried to preempt that argument, with Zhou telling the jury he expected the defendants to attack Howe’s credibility. “They’re hoping to distract you from the clear evidence in this case. Don’t let them,” he said, emphasizing that Howe’s testimony was only a part of their case and that a massive paper trail implicated the defendants and did not depend on Howe. “You don’t need an insider’s view to convict these defendants.They convict themselves,” he said.

After Zhou concluded, lawyers for Percoco’s co-defendants took their turns tearing into Howe while describing their clients as unwitting victims of a “master manipulator” who has even fooled the government.

“The government’s case is heavily leveraged on Howe,” said Milton Williams, an attorney for Gerardi, a COR Development executive. Williams said Howe’s talent with the “magic phone call game” made him an effective operator who lobbied government officials and got things done with a simple phone call.

Howe, he said, controlled “the flow of information” between all the defendants and that Gerardi was “played for a fool” like the others. “It’s up to you to stop the damage of Todd Howe,” Williams told the jury.

COR executive Steven Aiello’s attorney, Stephen Coffey, did not hold back as he spent two hours painting the image of Howe as the mastermind who played both sides and entrapped his client in the different schemes that make up the charges. “The only person spinning this web tangled with lies...is Howe,” he said, describing Howe as a “walking, talking reasonable doubt.”

“If ever a man exemplified reasonable doubt, it’s Todd Howe,” he said.

Coffey also attempted to draw a line between the charges faced by Aiello and Gerardi as opposed to those faced by Kelly and Percoco. “Anything you find went on with the Kelly matter or the Percoco matter, we’re not involved in it,” he said. “There’s no ‘ziti’ with Steven Aiello and Joe Gerardi.”

CVP executive Peter Galbraith Kelly’s lawyer, Daniel Gitner, also addressed the jury Tuesday, portraying the relationship between his client and Percoco as a close friendship. “Braith’s actions were never the actions of a man who thought he’d rigged the system,” Gitner said, using a nickname for Kelly. “Quid pro nada,” he added.

Instead, Gitner said Kelly was simply a generous man who wanted to help a friend in financial distress with no expectation of any favors in return. “No such agreement was discussed. No such bargain was struck,” he said, explaining the circumstances of the how Kelly’s company gave a job to Percoco’s wife.

Gitner also accused the prosecution of attempting to “whitewash” Howe’s contribution to its case in closing statements after “touting” him in the trail’s opening remarks. Just over an hour into his closing, Gitner was barely halfway done before the court adjourned for the day. Closing arguments will continue and may conclude on Wednesday, possibly leading to initial jury deliberations the following day.

The trial has raised a number of questions about Governor Cuomo's knowledge of Percoco's behavior and ways in which Cuomo oversaw both his reelection campaign and government administration. Cuomo has declined to answer any media questions about the trial, saying it wouldn't be appropriate given the ongoing trial and his self-professed respect for the legal process.

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

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The 2018 Elections in New York

Andrew Cuomo voting

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

In 2018, New York will be home to elections for statewide seats including Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Comptroller, as well as one of its two United States Senate seats. In all five positions, incumbent Democrats are seeking reelection.

New York is also home to elections for all of its 27 seats in The House of Representatives -- races that will help determine which political party controls the chamber -- and in the state Legislature, with its 63 state Senate seats and 150 Assembly seats. The state Senate races will determine which party controls the chamber, which Republicans currently lead by a slight margin due to the defection of rogue Democrats. The Assembly is certain to remain solidly in Democratic hands.

Congressional primaries will occur June 26; while primaries for the state-level elections will occur in September (likely Thursday the 13th, but lawmakers are currently finalizing the move from Tuesday, September 11, due to Rosh Hashanah). Election Day -- with the general election for all 2018 races -- will occur November 6.

First, though, there are 11 special elections happening April 24 to fill 11 vacancies in the state Legislature, two in the Senate and nine in the Assembly.

It will be a busy, contentious election year in New York, with many races to keep tabs on, and outcomes that have major impact on the city, the state, and the nation.

Our ongoing coverage of the 2018 elections in New York, and some of the coverage from our media partners:

Letitia James Launches Campaign for Attorney General by Samar Khurshid (May 2018)

Exploring Attorney General Run, Zephyr Teachout Pursues Working Families Nomination, Democratic Ballot Line by Ben Max (May 2018)

The Contradictions of Cross-Endorsements in the Governor’s Race by Howie Hawks (May 2018)

Marc Molinaro and The Trump Question by Ben Max (May 2018)

Defining 'Real Democrat,' Cynthia Nixon Offers Early Policy Platform by Ben Max & Matthew Sweeney (May 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Political Purity Tests in New York by Ben Max (April 2018)

As Cuomo Chooses Democratic Unity, Party Activist Base Chooses Nixon by David Colon (April 2018)

Special Election Results for 11 State Legislative Seats by Ben Max (April 2018)

Progressives Draft Convention Resolution to Allow Unaffiliated Voters in Democratic Primary by Samar Khurshid (April 2018)

Progressives Draft Convention Resolution to Allow Unaffiliated Voters in Democratic Primary by Ashley Hupfl (April 2018)

Major Cuomo Supporters Don’t Want a Democratic State Senate by Ben Brachfeld (April 2018)

Republican Governors Association ‘Keeping Close Eye’ on New York by Samar Khurshid (April 2018)

Cuomo's Progressive Promises, Reminiscent of Four Years Ago, Received Differently by Sam Raskin (April 2018)

Molinaro Outlines Initial Ethics and Campaign Finance Reform Agenda by Ben Max (April 2018)

Nixon Candidacy Spotlights Education Advocacy Group by Samar Khurshid (April 2018)

After Government Investment, Cuomo Taps Brewing Industry for Campaign Contributions by Shant Shahrigian (April 2018)

Cuomo, State Democrats Issue Misleading Pleas About Flipping Senate by Samar Khurshid (April 2018)

Nixon-Cuomo Primary Spotlights Role of State Democratic Party by Samar Khurshid (April 2018)

In Run for Governor, Marc Molinaro Will Make a Character Argument by Ben Max (March 2018)

Cynthia Nixon Recently Re-registered to Vote in Manhattan by Ben Max (March 2018)

‘Sex and the City’ Likely to Stay on Air Through Nixon-Cuomo Primary by Ben Brachfeld (March 2018)

Cuomo Campaign Removes Misleading Boast of Old Endorsements by Samar Khurshid (March 2018)

Cynthia Nixon Announces Democratic Primary Challenge to Governor Cuomo by Samar Khurshid (March 2018)

Molinaro Emerges on Top After Manhattan GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Forum by Samar Khurshid (March 2018)

Progressive Groups Endorse Democrat in Key Westchester Senate Race by Samar Khurshid (March 2018)

Molinaro Emerges on Top After Manhattan GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Forum by Samar Khurshid (March 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: A Journalist Runs for State Senate A Journalist Runs for State Senate by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy (March 2018)

Poll Targeting Brooklyn District Gauges Anti-IDC Sentiment by Rachel Silberstein (March 2018)

Fierce Cuomo Critics, De Blasio-Allied Advisors Have Been ‘Ready for Cynthia’ by Samar Khurshid (March 2018)

Senate Candidates Outline Primary Campaigns Against ‘Trump Democrats by Matthew Sweeney & Ben Max (March 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: IDC Challengers Robert Jackson & Jessica Ramos by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy (February 2018)

As Hochul Pushes Cuomo Agenda, Williams Takes on Both in Primary Challenge by Rachel Silberstein (February 2018)

Max & Murphy Podcast: Lieutenant Governor Candidate Jumaane Williams by Ben Max & Jarrett Murphy (February 2018)

11 Special Elections Set for April 24 by Rachel Silberstein (February 2018)

Staten Island Activist Eyes Primary Challenge to IDC Senator Savino by Rachel Silberstein (February 2018)

Running Without Establishment Support, IDC Challengers Show Initial Fundraising Strides by Rachel Silberstein (January 2018)

2018 Will Be a Busy, Contentious Election Year in New York by Matthew Sweeney (January 2018)

City Council Member Jumaane Williams to Explore Run for Lieutenant Governor by Ben Max (January 2018)

Possible GOP Gubernatorial Candidates Weigh Chances to Unseat Cuomo by Rachel Silberstein (November 2017)

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.


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