Gotham Gazette Wed, 21 Oct 2020 17:09:02 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) Max & Murphy Podcast: The Mayoral Race with Top Political Strategists mxm logo

Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits

July 31, 2017: Republican strategist Mollie Fullington and Democratic strategist Rebecca Katz join Max & Murphy to discuss the 2017 New York City mayoral race.

max murphy katz fullingtonMollie Fullington used to work for Governor George Pataki and recently handled press and communications for mayoral candidate Paul Massey. Rebecca Katz, a partner at Hilltop Public Solutions, used to work for Senator Harry Reid and helped get Bill de Blasio elected mayor in 2013. Fullington and Katz joined the Max & Murphy podcast to discuss this year's mayoral race in what is a lively conversation about what happened with Massey's candidacy, how the public views Bill de Blasio, whether Nicole Malliotakis can beat de Blasio in November, and more. The conversation includes interesting insights into campaign strategy that inform the current state of the mayoral race and the three months ahead as New York City voters decide who will lead them for the next four years.

As Fullington put it, right now it's all "transit and Trump," but there's a lot more to it than that.

Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax @JarrettMurphy @RebeccaKKatz @MollConkFull -- through the embedded audio below or download it wherever you get your podcasts.

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Max & Murphy Podcast: The Mayoral Race with Top Political Strategists Mon, 31 Jul 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Massey Drops from Mayoral Race, Clearing Path to GOP Nomination for Malliotakis crains massey malliotakis crop

Massey & Malliotakis (photo via Crain's New York Business)

In a move that sent shockwaves throughout the New York political world, Paul Massey, a real estate executive running for the Republican nomination for mayor, abruptly dropped out of the race just hours after a debate with his primary rival, Staten Island Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis. The move leaves Malliotakis as the clear frontrunner for the GOP nomination.

In a statement released to the press, Massey stated that his reason for dropping out was financial.

“Unfortunately, the cost of running for office is extraordinary,” Massey said, “and I do not see a path to raising the necessary funds to beat an incumbent mayor. I am forever indebted to my family, team and my friends for their support.”

As of the last filing period, Massey had raised $5.75 million for his campaign, more than any other mayoral candidate this cycle, even incumbent Democrat Bill de Blasio; but $2.72 million of it was loans from Massey’s own coffers, much of which he has recouped from his campaign. Massey has also raised eyebrows with his spending, hiring a dizzying array of consultants and campaign hands, depleting his account as fast as he could add to it.

Massey regularly stated that his campaign would never suffer from a lack of funds, so it is not immediately clear what other factors led him to drop from the campaign. He had struggled to gain momentum, often showing his lack of experience in running a political campaign and lack of knowledge about city government and policy. He attempted to sell himself as a “non-political” “independent-minded” businessman in the Michael Bloomberg mold.

Malliotakis, who has been endorsed by the Conservative Party, now appears a lock to receive the Republican ballot line for November and take on de Blasio in the general election. Private investigator Bo Dietl, running as an independent, also appears like he will make noise in the general, given his outsized personality and ability to raise money. There will also be other smaller party nominees.

De Blasio is a heavy favorite the Democratic primary, where his main competition is from Sal Albanese, a former City Council member, and Bob Gangi, a police reform advocate. The mayor would also enter the general election as a heavy favorite. (Albanese has won the Reform Party line and will appear on the November ballot no matter the outcome of the Democratic primary).

Even before Massey’s departure from the race, Malliotakis had racked up a variety of endorsements, including from most of her fellow Staten Island elected officials, who trend Republican in this largely Democratic city, and from 2013 Republican mayoral nominee Joe Lhota, among others.

Massey had won the endorsement of the Independence Party; it is unclear what the party will do for November. Frank MacKay, the Chair of the Independence Party, did not respond to a request for comment.

Massey had released several policy papers on transportation, infrastructure, public safety, and education, although he often showed discomfort with discussing policy on the campaign trail. Malliotakis, who entered the race much later than Massey, has not produced any policy papers, but, as an experienced politician, has appeared more comfortable campaigning and, as an elected official, has shown more command of the issues.

At the debate that took place just hours before Massey dropped out, the candidate claimed that much of the “rank-and-file” of the NYPD don’t believe that crime is at historic lows. He then claimed, without any evidence, that “some of our city’s greatest authorities on public safety are saying the numbers are being fudged.”

The unsubstantiated accusation dominated a press gaggle with Massey afterwards. When Gotham Gazette asked for evidence to back up the claim, Massey avoided specifics, referring to his source for this information as “people on the street.”

“The people I’ve talked to out there are saying the numbers might be fudged,” he said. “They are concerned about the fact that our rank and file don’t feel safe themselves, that our rank and file don’t believe in the policies of the police.”

Malliotakis referred to the claim as “irresponsible” and “offensive.”

Greg David of Crain’s New York Business, the debate moderator, asked Massey and Malliotakis to present campaign slogans. Massey’s slogan was “New York Proud Again,” which received a chilly reception, perhaps due to its similarity to President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again.” Trump is widely unpopular in the city; a recent Quinnipiac poll showed Trump having a 74% disapproval rating within the five boroughs.

“Again is a very interesting word that’s been used recently,” he said, “but it paints the picture that we have been proud before, we have been a great city.” Both Massey and Malliotakis have been unwaveringly critical of de Blasio, saying that he has been a terrible leader for the city and has it headed for doom.

Malliotakis’ slogan, “Get New York City out of the hole, so vote for Nicole,” elicited laughter from the audience.

Malliotakis said at the debate that her campaign is focused on quality of life issues in the city. She repeatedly railed against de Blasio for a lack of leadership, especially with regard to the meltdown of the city’s subway system. She also talked about lowering property taxes, raising the speed limit on some roads, reducing the city budget, and other more typically conservative stances on policy.

Malliotakis was asked by reporters about her support for Trump, whom she said she voted for in the general election after having supported Marco Rubio in the GOP primary. Malliotakis said she did not plan to seek Trump’s endorsement and insisted the race is about local issues, criticizing de Blasio for an ambition to be a national progressive leader.

In a statement responding to Massey’s departure from the race, Malliotakis recognized the clear path to the GOP nomination she now has.

"Today’s decision by Paul Massey clears the field in the race for Mayor,” the statement read. “I will now be able to focus all my energies on defeating Bill de Blasio in the November election. Whether it’s yesterday’s A train derailment, our failing schools or an out of control homeless crisis, I will take these issues to the Mayor. I will challenge him on how he is running New York City into the ground and slowly returning it to the bad old days of the 1970s and 80s.”

Malliotakis embraced her status as the presumptive Republican nominee and continued her focus on the incumbent mayor, stating that de Blasio, who dodged questions from reporters on the derailment of an A train in Harlem on Tuesday, “won’t be able to run from me.”

Malliotakis was gracious towards Massey, calling him “a gentleman... who cares a great deal about” the city. “I wish him well in the future,” she said.

by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Massey Drops from Mayoral Race, Clearing Path to GOP Nomination for Malliotakis Wed, 28 Jun 2017 04:00:00 +0000
The Max & Murphy Podcast mxm logo

Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits

"Max & Murphy" is a podcast hosted by Ben Max of Gotham Gazette and Jarrett Murphy of City Limits that began in 2016 as a brief discussion on the latest in housing policy but quickly expanded to lengthier discussions of a wide variety of political and policy issues, including interviews with candidates for office, elected and appointed government officials, advocates and other experts. In 2017 the show was an important stop for candidates for top city offices and in 2018 for candidates for state offices. Also in 2018, the podcast was picked up by WBAI radio, where the show initially airs on Wednesdays from 5 to 6 p.m. Portions or full episodes of the show are then posted to the podcast streams, and to the Gotham Gazette and City Limits websites. 

Find episodes through the links below, or find "Max & Murphy" wherever you get your podcasts: iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Soundcloud, and Spotify. Find it and please rate and subscribe!

Have feedback? Find us on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @jarrettmurphy.

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gifford miller city council 400px Gifford Miller, former Speaker of the City Council and mayoral candidate — September 11, 2017
brigid bergin and ben max400px Brigid Bergin of WNYC radio — September 5, 2017
Joseph Viteritti De Blasio Author Joseph Viteritti — August 30, 2017
Public advocate Candidate David Eisenbach Public advocate Candidate David Eisenbach — August 28, 2017
azi paybarah tv 400px167px Azi Paybarah — August 17, 2017
Dr. Christina Greer and Alexis Grenell Representative vs. Substantive Representation, with Dr. Christina Greer and Alexis Grenell — August 15, 2017
max murphy katz fullington res The Mayoral Race with Top Political Strategists — July 31, 2017
bo dietl Mayoral Candidate Bo Dietl — July 24, 2017
nicole malliotakis Republican Mayoral Candidate Nicole Malliotaki — July 13, 2017
eric phillips Eric Phillips, press secretary to Mayor Bill de Blasio — July 5, 2017
sal albanese Democratic Mayoral Candidate Sal Albanese — June 26, 2017
paul massey 

Republican Mayoral Candidate Paul Massey — June 19, 2017 (note: Paul Massey dropped out of the mayoral race on June 28, though the episode is still worth listening to)

bob gangi Democratic Mayoral Candidate Bob Gangi — June 12, 2017
mxm logo 400px Election Season is Here! — June 1, 2017

A variety of earlier episodes of the Max & Murphy Podcast, through the archive, often focused on New York housing policy and politics — see all episodes from the start February 12, 2016 to May 25, 2017

The Max & Murphy Podcast Sun, 25 Jun 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Republican Mayoral Candidate Paul Massey mxm logo

Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits

Max & Murphy is a podcast focused on New York City politics and policy hosted by Ben Max of Gotham Gazette and Jarrett Murphy of City Limits. Past episodes of the podcast can be found here and can be dowloaded from iTunes and other podcast networks. The podcast began with a focus on housing in early 2016, but has expanded into other areas, now turning to the 2017 city elections, especially the race for Mayor.

paul massey 4

After being joined by Democratic mayoral candidate Bob Gangi last week, we're joined by Republican mayoral candidate Paul Massey this week. Massey, a real estate sales executive, has secured the Independence Party endorsement and is locked in a tough battle for the GOP nomination with Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis. Massey has mostly focused his campaign on Mayor Bill de Blasio, who he hopes to face in the general election after defeating Malliotakis in the primary.

Massey is selling himself as a "non-political" management executive in the Michael Bloomberg mold, parlaying private sector success into a pitch that he is the kind of leader the city needs so that things get done effectively and efficiently, without the political games that career politicians play. On the flip side of that argument is the fact that Massey is something of a novice when it comes to not only running for office, which requires certain skills, but also policy-making, especially in areas not having to do with real estate and business. Massey has not shown great command of the issues, but he has shown a commitment to learning, a seriousness about the campaign task at hand and the job of Mayor, and an ability to raise a lot of money, including loans to his campaign from his own deep personal coffers.

As you'll hear in the interview, Massey continues to assail de Blasio as incompetent and corrupt, while referring specificially to mismanagement of homelessness, a misguided approach to school choice, and allowing a pay-to-play culture at City Hall. We asked Massey about what animates his campaign other than not liking the job de Blasio is doing, how he will defeat Malliotakis in the GOP primary (and if he'd run on the Independence line if he doesn't get the GOP line), whether he's really prepared to be Mayor of New York City, and much more.

Listen to our interview with Paul Massey through the SoundCloud embed below, or find us anywhere you get your podcasts, like iTunes. Let us know what you think: we're on Twitter @jarrettmurphy and @tweetBenMax. Massey is at @MasseyForMayor. Find our interview with Bob Gangi here and stay tuned for coming interviews with other mayoral candidates, including Democrat Sal Albanese and Republican Nicole Malliotakis.

June 19, 2017:

Max & Murphy Podcast: Republican Mayoral Candidate Paul Massey Mon, 19 Jun 2017 04:00:00 +0000
With Subways in Crisis, It’s Showtime for Mayoral Candidates Cuomo subway train

(photo: The Governor's Office)

Standing near a City Hall subway stop, Staten Island Assembly member and GOP mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis railed against Mayor Bill de Blasio’s handling of the city’s transit system and its state-controlled operator, the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

At a podium set up just outside a 4 and 5 train entrance -- the same station that the mayor and his family emerged from for his inauguration on January 1, 2014 -- Malliotakis said last Friday that de Blasio has been ineffective and pledged that if she is elected mayor, she’ll provide additional city investment into the ailing system.

“The mayor cannot keep pointing fingers, he needs to take responsibility for the subway system that runs through his city,” she said, as puzzled straphangers emerged from the stairs behind her.

The issue of what to do about the city’s beleaguered public transportation system has quickly become a central question before the September primaries and November mayoral election. With cascading delays and the looming closure of the L train just as the subway’s ridership has ballooned to over 5.6 million commuters on an average weekday, the transit system’s troubles are threatening to devolve into a full-blown crisis, and Malliotakis isn’t the only mayoral candidate pouncing on the issue.

On Monday morning, former City Council member and Democratic candidate Sal Albanese echoed Malliotakis as he stood outside the midtown offices of Governor Andrew Cuomo. He was there to hand-deliver a letter to Cuomo’s staff – the governor was in Albany – in which he pledged to immediately increase the city’s MTA capital funding to $1 billion annually if elected mayor, and to work with the governor. “We can’t take the position that this service is basically a ping-pong ball between the mayor and the governor,” he said, alluding the icy relationship between de Blasio and Cuomo.

Paul Massey, a millionaire real-estate executive and political novice who is seeking the Republican nomination, seems to want to regain his footing after having stumbled somewhat over the transit issue at a mid-May press conference in front of City Hall, where he was critical of the mayor and alluded to “a lot of problems in our mass transit system,” but didn’t give any specific ideas for fixes when asked for details.

A spokesperson for Massey said that the campaign will roll out a “comprehensive plan next week” and outlined some of the plan’s main points: additional funding for the MTA is necessary, but any increase in the city’s contribution would be “conditional on the city taking back control of our transit system, including additional NYC representation on the MTA board.” This would likely entail a change to the MTA’s charter, which would have to be approved by the state legislature.

In addition, Massey’s campaign said it will unveil plans for “immediate system-wide upgrade of subway signals and switches,” “a ground-up overhaul of city traffic management policies,” and “transformative infrastructure investment in all five boroughs.” Massey mentioned some of the looming platform when he campaigned Monday evening outside a subway stop on the Upper East Side.

The idea of conditional increased funding was also put forward by activist and Democratic hopeful Robert Gangi, who said in a phone call that he would “communicate that [the city] is prepared to increase its investment but at the same time get some understandings and some commitments about where the money should go,” including the purchase of “a significant amount of new buses and subway cars.” He did not have a specific number for funding increases, but said he would study the issue.

Gangi’s main transportation plank is less about infrastructure and more about socioeconomics: he backs the “fair fares” plan to provide free access to public transportation, including subways and buses, to low income New Yorkers. He claims he would pay for it in part by cancelling other transportation proposals, such as the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) streetcar announced last year by the mayor.

Public transportation is fundamental to the largest city in the country and its elected leaders. But the issue is taking on new urgency just as the city’s political calendar heats up.

“This is a bread-and-butter issue, this is not some esoteric issue. This is what drives the city’s economy,” said Albanese, expressing a sentiment echoed in some way by every candidate Gotham Gazette spoke to (along with Albanese, Gangi, Massey, and Malliotakis, there are a handful of other mayoral candidates).

Similarly, none of those four candidates thought that the equipment powering the 665 mainline miles of subway tracks is adequate, with the system’s archaic ‘block’ signaling system receiving outsize scorn. “Much of the equipment for the subway was installed pre-World War II,” said Malliotakis, who compared the city’s subway unfavorably to that of other cities around the world, including Paris, Copenhagen, San Francisco, Vancouver, and London.

London’s transportation system’s signal improvements were also invoked by Albanese, who argued that they showed a modern metropolis could make necessary upgrades provided a political will. He pledged to take the subway regularly as mayor, saying “I understand that sometimes you have to take the SUV, even a helicopter once in a blue moon, but I will use transit.” In a jab at the current mayor, he added that Mayor Michael “Bloomberg, talk about billionaires, actually got on the train himself on a regular basis.”

Mayor de Blasio is not a frequent subway rider, and, with the system in crisis, he’s dismissed recent calls to take the train more often as a way of both leading by example in using public transportation and a way to understand what his constituents are dealing with. (De Blasio quietly took a subway ride uptown on Wednesday afternoon, his first subway trip since mid-April.)

The subway situation may be a vulnerability for de Blasio in this campaign, especially given that many New Yorkers reflexively blame the Mayor, not knowing that the MTA is much more the Governor’s responsibility. De Blasio’s famously frosty relationship with Cuomo has manifested in finger-pointing and a lack of dialogue on the city’s transit, and de Blasio has taken flak for a workout routine that involves taking two SUVs from his official home on the Upper East Side to a gym in Park Slope, Brooklyn, his longtime neighborhood. The issue would have likely blown over if the mayor didn’t then jab at critics, arguing that using public transit instead would amount to “cheap symbolism” in the fight against climate change.

As the nightmare commutes and bad headlines mount, de Blasio has laid the blame with Cuomo and the MTA, routinely prefacing responses to subway crises with reminders that the MTA is “state-run.” Nonetheless, he has faced increasing attacks from rivals, as well as questions from members of the public and reporters about what he’s doing to address commuter issues and whether he’s being a forceful enough advocate for his constituents.

Currently, New York City has committed to providing $2.5 billion, or 9 percent, of the MTA’s 2015-2019 capital program, which funds improvements to the transportation system. That number was the endpoint of a contentious public fight between the mayor and the governor, who sided with the MTA and the Transport Workers Union Local 100 in accusing the city of neglecting its responsibilities after an original commitment of $657 million. The state has committed $8.3 billion, or 28 percent.

Critics and budget hawks have complained that no funding sources have yet been identified for these commitments, which kick in after the MTA, which has pledged $11.8 billion – collected from fares, loans, and other sources – has used up all other funding.

The governor directly appoints six out of 14 voting MTA board members and names the Chair, effectively controlling the agency; the mayor recommends four board members. Despite that, Malliotakis argued that de Blasio couldn’t pass the buck on transportation, since “aside from keeping us safe, it is the number one issue,” and accused his appointed members of not challenging “the status quo.”

At an unrelated press conference on June 5, the mayor was asked if the city’s congestion could be fixed without the addition of subway lines. “We need to first think about the things we can do right now,” he said, including ferry service, select bus service – “very, very productive” – and light rail, touting his BQX project. He did say that if reelected, he would start looking into the possibility of adding lines, saying “I’m going to be spending real time in the second term trying to figure out our physical reality for the future.”

In an email, a spokesperson for the mayor’s reelection campaign touted the $2.5 billion MTA capital plan contribution “to support new buses, subway cars, signal and station improvements, while introducing a citywide ferry system, and expanding bike lanes and CitiBike. That’s a transit record we are happy to compare with anyone."

by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

With Subways in Crisis, It’s Showtime for Mayoral Candidates Wed, 14 Jun 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Massey Makes A Campaign Stop on the Upper East Side massey subway stop

Paul Massey meets voters (photo via @MasseyForMayor)

Republican mayoral candidate Paul Massey introduced himself to voters on the Upper East Side at a campaign event Monday, shaking hands outside the 86th Street and Lexington Avenue subway stop. Massey spoke with roughly three dozen people in the nearly half-hour he posted up near the street corner, sporting a dark blue suit and a broad smile on a stiflingly hot June day.

“Want to meet the next mayor of New York?” members of Massey’s staff asked commuters, most of whom rushed past, trying to lure them in for an introduction. Most passersby seemed to be confused about who Massey was, but the presence of cameras and press caught the attention of a few curious onlookers.

The 57-year-old real estate executive, accompanied by several staffers and volunteers who distributed campaign literature, frequently told those he spoke with about what he believes to be Mayor Bill de Blasio’s flaws, especially a splintered relationship with the NYPD and his inability to “consensus-build” with Governor Cuomo.

De Blasio, a first-term Democrat, is expected to make it through the Democratic primary. Massey, a first-time political candidate, is locked in a tough primary battle with Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis. With three months to primary day, Massey must build name recognition and court voters.

During Monday’s rush hour meet-and-greet, Massey heard comments about city agencies, increases in homelessness and crime, transportation, and street safety issues. It was not clear how many Republican primary voters he spoke with.

Holding his first subway stop event on the Upper East Side was no coincidence, of course -- the neighborhood is one of the relatively few in the city with at least a solid Republican census when it comes to mayoral races, and it could be particularly helpful to Massey if he can win votes there. In past elections, including the 2013 general election for mayor, the largely well-off neighborhood typically votes for the Republican candidate in greater numbers than much of New York City. Republican nominee Joe Lhota bested de Blasio in 2013 by as much as 30% in parts of Election District 73, where the Massey campaign event took place.

Massey’s message, that he is a change agent and problem-solver who will unite the Big Apple while reversing the overly-leftward shift ushered in by de Blasio, is resonating with some. One campaign volunteer said that he missed Michael Bloomberg and thought Massey was the best candidate to revive the former mayor’s governing philosophy.

David, a young-looking Republican from Manhattan, had a relatively long conversation with Massey, then, speaking with Gotham Gazette, voiced displeasure with de Blasio’s relationship with the NYPD, which has been the source of much controversy over the past three-plus years, though less so of late.

“I’m sick and tired of the corruption in New York City,” David said. “De Blasio has just divided this city completely. [The police] are sacrificing their lives for us, and our mayor is mocking them,” he added. “We need a change in this city, and I think Paul is definitely going to provide that change.”

As can often be the case at campaign subway stops, Massey had some trouble attracting engagement. At one point he offered a young boy a high-five, but the boy kept walking -- only to double back and accept the gesture when he seemed to realize it was part of some kind of event.

Before departing for his next campaign stop Massey took questions from reporters who were there to see him. He took the opportunity to harshly criticize de Blasio, as he typically does, painting his Democratic rival as “divisive” and an “extreme ideologue” who has governed a city which is “falling apart.”

When asked if he had learned anything new from the individuals he had spoken to throughout the afternoon, Massey said, “I think people are concerned about similar things. People are concerned about our safety--they worry about the mayor’s relationship with the police. The conversations were in sync with what I’ve been hearing all along. The theme is, we really need a change from Bill de Blasio, and we need it now. There is a chord of discontent out there about this mayor that I think we’re just starting to realize.”

Asked why he had chosen the location for the subway meet-and-greet, Massey said there was no particular reason, that he’s been campaigning all over the city.

With subway problems dominating much of the New York conversation of late and his event outside a subway stop -- from which Massey emerged at about 5:10 p.m., seemingly after a train ride -- the candidate was asked about solutions to transit-related issues, which he lamented are “plaguing the city.” Massey cited a need to overhaul operations at the MTA, a state entity under the Governor’s control. In a similar vein, Massey said as mayor he’d improve infrastructure in all five boroughs, with the goal of improving transit.

Massey’s full agenda of infrastructure proposals will be released next week, he said, though he was sure that the framework would include a provision conditioning MTA capital spending on increased mayoral control on matters related to the agency.

“I think the people on the streets that I talked to were telling me that several times a month they're significantly late for work,” he said, labeling the problem a “management issue” that de Blasio has failed to properly handle. Massey subsequently argued that poor subway conditions are at least in part due to the mayor’s inability to cooperate with Governor Andrew Cuomo, after a reporter pointed out that MTA matters are Albany’s, not City Hall’s, responsibility.

“I think that currently we have a mayor that hates the governor and that is impeding a lot of things in this city,” he said, later adding that not only potential transportation fixes, but efforts such as affordable housing initiatives are also hindered by de Blasio’s contentious relationship with Cuomo. “[W]hoever the governor is, I'll work with him or her in a consensus-building basis.” Massey said. “That's the kind of leader that I am.”

by Sam Raskin & Amanda Tukaj

Massey Makes A Campaign Stop on the Upper East Side Tue, 13 Jun 2017 04:00:00 +0000
The Issues Likely to Dominate The 2017 Mayoral Race de blasio children schools

(photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)

Candidates running for mayor have begun to gather signatures to get on the ballot, bringing election season into full swing. Mayor Bill de Blasio is in a relatively comfortable position and polls show that he is likely to sail to reelection, but it is still relatively early, with September primary and November general elections on the horizon. Anything can happen in a political campaign.

As the mayor prepares to spend the next six months asking New Yorkers to give him another four years, he will also have to defend his first term record and set out a vision for a second term. As is often the case with incumbents, the election will largely be a referendum on de Blasio’s mayoralty.

Much of the focus of campaigns can be on polls, endorsements, and fundraising numbers, all of which have some importance. But the issues matter the most, and while there are some topics that will always be essential to a New York City mayoral election -- schools and public safety, to name two -- the particular candidates and context of an election also determine the major issues dominating the political discourse.

Sometimes, the issues can be different as things shift from primaries to the general election. Other times, it’s simply the frame of the conversation. For example, de Blasio will have to fend off criticism from his left in the primary, then from his right in the general, assuming he wins in September -- as Republicans say de Blasio is soft on crime, his opponents on the left argue his policing policies are too harsh. “That’s politics,” said Doug Muzzio, political science professor at Baruch College. “Welcome to the profession. You can’t win.”

There can always be something unforeseen that takes center stage, a crisis or scandal of some kind, a singular event that demands significant attention.

Experts and political observers say that on a few issues, de Blasio finds his record largely unassailable, while on others he is vulnerable. How the race shapes up will depend on how challengers highlight those issues, and which concerns are likely to resonate with the electorate. Several other candidates vying to be Mayor have begun to define their campaigns on certain issues, while others are always key to the mayoral discussion.

The Democratic Primary
In the Democratic primary, de Blasio faces a slew of candidates but only two of them, former City Council Member Sal Albanese and police reform activist Robert Gangi, seem to be raising funds to run competitive campaigns. While they’ve both been eclipsed by de Blasio’s fundraising -- the mayor has millions in his reelection account while both Gangi and Albanese have yet to break $100,000 -- the two challengers are mounting issue-focused campaigns, hoping to gain traction by criticizing the mayor from the left, perhaps appealing to some of de Blasio’s progressive supporters who are displeased by the mayor’s record.

Albanese and Gangi are also critical of the mayor not from a political philosophy, but regarding management and ethics, two aspects of de Blasio’s record that he will have to answer to throughout the campaign, including during the primary and, if he moves on, the general.

Gangi, a veteran activist, has based his campaign largely on criticizing the mayor’s record on police reform, saying that de Blasio has not gone far enough in reforming the NYPD and its practices. Although crime has continued to drop to historic lows under de Blasio and stop-and-frisk has been significantly curtailed, the NYPD continues to employ “Broken Windows” policing with de Blasio’s blessing, targeting low-level offenders to prevent more serious crimes. It is a practice that Gangi says he would abolish, pointing to racial disparities in arrest and summons data.

The mayor has also been questioned when it comes to officer accountability. Of particular focus is Officer Daniel Pantaleo, whose chokehold led to the death of Staten Island resident Eric Garner. Pantaleo is still on the force, though on modified duty. De Blasio has said the NYPD is awaiting the end of a federal inquiry into Garner’s death and that the department is ready to take disciplinary measures if no federal civil rights charges are brought. The incident is part of a larger trend where de Blasio has agreed to shield the disciplinary records of police officers, citing state law as a barrier.

Gangi has stressed that the NYPD’s use of broken windows is abusive and discriminatory against communities of color, and has vowed to end it. He also says the NYPD uses quotas in policing, which the department has consistently denied, and proposes decriminalizing fare evasion, marijuana possession, sex work, and gravity knife possession. Gangi’s points on NYPD accountability and transparency, and de Blasio’s policing record, are symbolic of a not small group of activists who are unhappy with the mayor’s police reforms.

“I don’t think that’s gonna resonate,” said Douglas Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College, of criticism of the mayor’s police reform record. “[De Blasio] has certain constraints governing...He can only do so much and the purists are gonna say he’s never doing enough. The perfectionists, the people who are committed to certain policy positions are never gonna be happy.” It’s an argument de Blasio has made while pointing to the policies he has put in place, including neighborhood policing, retraining of the entire NYPD force in de-escalation techniques, and a body camera program that has just launched in pilot.

A pack of issues that Gangi has been vocal about is reducing school overcrowding and class sizes, promoting desegregation of schools, and hiring more teachers. Education is always a mayoral campaign issue. While de Blasio has touted higher graduation rates and lower dropout rates, higher standardized test scores, and a wide-reaching “equity and excellence” agenda that seeks to foster more opportunity and progress across all city schools, there are still many schools that show shockingly poor results. While de Blasio has infused significant funds into his Renewal Schools program and attempted to make the most struggling schools into community schools that have wraparound services, the Renewal program has shown lackluster results. Class sizes and school overcrowding continue to plague many schools.

Sal Albanese, a former school teacher and elected official, has also made education reform one of his top agenda items and has proposed a number of improvements to the schools system. Among them, consolidating early childhood education programs under one agency to reduce fiscal waste and increase access, creating more early childhood programs, ensuring wage parity for early educators, improving teacher recruitment and training, and enhancing accountability for principals while affording them increased authority.

Albanese has also pledged to expand community policing -- a citywide expansion is already underway in phases with most precincts already covered under the new Neighborhood Coordinating Officers (NCO) program -- and has vowed a more equitable distribution of resources and personnel to precincts. Albanese, who also ran in the 1997 and 2013 Democratic primaries for Mayor, regularly says that morale in the NYPD is terrible and that as Mayor he would improve it dramatically.

Albanese has also been a fervent critic of de Blasio’s relationship with special interests, particularly the real estate industry, and has called the mayor’s a “corrupt and incompetent administration.” He cites numerous conflicts of interest, including through de Blasio’s now-shuttered Campaign for One New York, a political nonprofit that accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from entities with city business and was a focus of a federal investigation, for which the mayor and his associates were not brought up on charges.

Albanese also criticizes the city’s public campaign finance system, which is seen as a model by many. He proposes reforming the system and establishing “democracy vouchers” that would be given to voters who can then use those vouchers to make campaign contributions to the candidate of their choice, fully eliminating private money from the process and giving each voter the same financial influence in campaigns.

On his campaign website as of June 6, Albanese features briefly outlined plans on mass transit, housing, animal care, public safety, political reform, and education.

One major question hanging over the Democratic primary is whether there will be any formal debates, which can be an important way for candidates to get their messages out, raise key issues, and criticize the frontrunner. The Campaign Finance Board will run two primetime, televised debates in the primary if the candidates meet the thresholds, which are different for the first and the second. The first debate requires candidates to raise and spend at least $174,225 and can also include additional criteria such as a minimum polling average.

Dr. Christina Greer, political science professor at Fordham University, decried a lack of a competition on the Democratic side. Saying “it doesn’t really seem like there’s gonna be a robust Democratic primary,” Greer lamented that de Blasio may not “be tested” on four issues she believes many New Yorkers, especially in the mayor’s base, are thinking about: “affordable housing, homelessness, Rikers and all the things that come underneath Rikers, and transportation.”

Greer points out that without a competitive primary challenge, “we’re sort of leaving the mayor to rest on what I think is a pretty legitimate record, but at the same time there’s no one to push him to do and say more... And while I do think that de Blasio deserves a second term, I would like to see a competitive primary where he articulates not just what he’s done but a new vision for the next four years which, I don’t really know if we’ve heard that just yet.”

The Republican Primary
On the Republican side, the race is shaping up as a head-to-head battle between Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis and real estate executive Paul Massey. The two candidates have taken largely similar policy positions, though Massey is running as more of a centrist, “non-political” manager who calls himself “independent-minded,” and Malliotakis is running as a more traditional Republican, even more conservative than many New York City members of the GOP. Tellingly, Malliotakis has the Conservative Party endorsement while Massey has the Independence Party endorsement.

Neither candidate has defined themselves on any issue or set of issues. Massey has been closer, painting himself as a seasoned executive who would run the city with ideas from “across the political spectrum” a la Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Both GOP candidates criticize de Blasio on a wide variety of topics, a list that seems to grow by the day. They have regularly taken on the mayor’s approach to public safety, especially for reducing penalties for certain low-level nonviolent offenses, and generally raising the spectre of worsening quality of life in the city.

Both have condemned the city’s homelessness crisis and de Blasio’s management of it. They point to the mayor’s proclivity for spending more money to get what they call meager results. Education has been a top priority, both calling for more school choice and better management of “failing” schools.

Where they differ is on certain social issues -- Malliotakis is generally more conservative than Massey and voted against same-sex marriage in 2011 in the Assembly. Malliotakis also opposes New York’s “sanctuary city” status while Massey has called for the policy to remain as it is, pointing to the need for new federal immigration policy.

Massey has begun releasing policy papers, including on education and public safety, while Malliotakis, who joined the race much more recently, has promised more detail in her policy plans.

“Malliotakis and Massey, they haven’t made an impact,” Muzzio said of the Republican field thus far, in an assertion supported by recent poll numbers. “Now the Republicans are gonna say that, ‘[de Blasio’s] a wildly spending liberal, he’s giving the store away.’ You know, typical Republican critique of a Democrat.” Muzzio is correct, especially given that the mayor and City Council just announced a new budget agreement that again raises city spending. Both leading GOP candidates released statements criticizing the mayor for continuing to grow the city budget, throwing good money after bad, they say.

Their critique of the mayor’s policing policy is also typical of the ideological right, said Muzzio. “Those people that are committed ideologically to stop-and-frisk and Broken Windows aren’t happy with him,” he said. “And they’re predicting gloom and doom. It hasn’t happened yet and it might not happen but they’re still gonna charge him with softness on crime.” Both candidates point to specific areas where crime is up, whether through de Blasio’s term or one year to another. They also point to a mostly vague sense that the city is slipping backward.

Greer believes the Republican candidates will have to establish where they stand vis-a-vis their party’s top elected official, President Donald Trump. “They’re just gonna have to figure out how close or far away they’re going to position themselves to Trump,” she said. It’s a certainty that de Blaiso, if a winner in his primary, will seek to paint his general election GOP opponent with a Trump brush.

Massey has repeatedly said he does not want the mayoral election to be a referendum on Trump, which he believes would play into the mayor’s hands as he uses the president as a foil. Malliotakis is a vocal Trump supporter and voted for him after supporting Marco Rubio in the GOP presidential primary. Massey has said he wrote in Michael Bloomberg for president in November.

Greer points out that Republican arguments about rising crime are often based in “falsehoods” and says that the mismanagement critique of de Blasio may not stick, given some of his successes, like universal pre-kindergarten, and that people respond to pocketbook and kitchen table issues.

“I think the Republicans will be jockeying to figure out their messaging as far as whether or not they’re going to double down and support the president or try and distance themselves, to try to look a little bit more moderate,” Greer said. This may take a different shape in the primary than the general election.

Nicole Gelinas, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, doesn’t believe that the Republicans will be able to make crime an issue in the general election. “I think with the crime issue, it’s hard for the Republican candidate to make a case that de blasio isn’t doing a good job on crime,” she said. “I think people feel generally safe, I think certainly compared to 15 years ago or longer than that.”

Although Gelinas said that public safety would be an important issue in the debates, she doubted it would gain traction. “There’s always lots to criticize any mayor about policing, there’s always examples of police incompetence and corruption, there’s always crimes,” she said. “But can [Republicans] make this into a systemic crisis?...on the one hand crime hasn’t soared, on the other hand although there’s always problems of police brutality and so forth, nobody can make the case that it’s systemically gotten any worse under de Blasio and it’s probably gotten better with the number of stop-question-and-frisks having gone down. So I don’t think that’ll get very far.”

Gelinas said the top three issues, on both sides of the aisle, “are always jobs, education and housing.”

She pointed out that retail job growth, which recovered faster than most of the country after the recession, is slowing with a national trend, but wouldn’t be a serious issue before the September primary or the November general election. On housing, she said candidates have yet to express concrete proposals that go beyond the mayor’s stated goal of creating and preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing over 10 years. For Massey, housing has been a particular priority and he is pitching his decades of experience in the real estate industry as necessary to solve it. Massey ran a commercial sales business that took a neighborhood by neighborhood approach at a very opportune time in the city’s renaissance.

Gelinas did say that de Blasio has not been responsible with the budget and would face criticism for it. Spending under the mayor has increased by about 20 percent since Mayor Bloomberg’s last budget, with the mayor and City Council agreeing on an $85.2 billion budget just last week. It’s one of the main Republican critiques, including by Malliotakis who has called de Blasio the “tax-and-spend” mayor.

“But it’s hard to get voters to pay attention to that when there’s not a budget crisis,” said Gelinas. “I mean Bloomberg was elected partly because of 9/11 and people thought the city is going to have a huge budget crisis and we need this business person to address it. And it’s hard to see anyone thinking that anytime before September or November.”

On issues of quality of life, such as traffic congestion, noise and illegal construction work, Gelinas said de Blasio is vulnerable. “It’s still hard to marshall a critical mass of voters on these issues partly because people get so used to it,” she said.

The General Crisis
What should be the main issue in the election, Gelinas said, is transit infrastructure, “because elections sometimes are driven by crises. “The last time it was the perception of the inequality crisis, the elections before that, ‘Would the city recover after 9/11?’ Before that the crime crisis and the budget crisis.”

De Blasio is already dealing with the inequality crisis, she said, by implementing and expanding measures such as universal pre-kindergarten. But there seems to be no plan for the ever-worsening transit, particularly the city’s subway system. “This is affecting everybody’s quality of life,” she added. “If you go to work, if you go to school, if you’re looking for a job, if you’re poor, middle class or wealthier. It does hit the poor and middle classes the hardest. Because if you’re wealthy you have other options of getting around but most everybody else is stuck on the mass transit system that isn’t serving them well anymore.”

The mayor has been at pains to emphasize that the MTA, which serves the most commuters in the city and hence draws the most ire, is controlled by a state authority and Governor Andrew Cuomo, his longtime political rival. In doing so, the mayor has also laid the transit issues at the governor’s feet, washing his hands of the problems and hence the responsibility, though he is not completely without any. The city contributes billions to the MTA capital plan, and the mayor appoints members to the MTA board. While his power is nowhere near the governor’s, many fault de Blasio for being too quick to ignore the subway woes, saying that he should be talking about it constantly, riding the subways more, and working with the governor and MTA for solutions.

And, over the budget season, City Council members and transit advocates pressed the mayor to fund the “Fair Fares” proposal to provide discounted MetroCards to low-income New Yorkers and he repeatedly refused to do so.

“The mayor obviously doesn’t control the MTA but he does make a capital contribution to the MTA,” Gelinas pointed out. “Should the city be making a bigger contribution to build a better signal system? Also the city does manage all of the street level transportation and that’s not being managed very well either. It doesn’t seem like the mayor walks around, understands what’s going on on the streets...I think it’s good that the mayor did the ferries but even the ferries are being overwhelmed [initially] which show you how much demand there is for transportation that’s not being met.”

De Blasio often highlights his transportation agenda of a new ferry network, expanded Citi Bike service, and the looking Brooklyn-Queens Connector, or BQX, light-rail streetcar.

Greer agreed that transportation in the city is in crisis, and that the mayor must take some responsibility for it, even if it’s not under his purview. “Transportation affects so many New Yorkers across class lines,” she said. “There’s a sense of frustration because the mayor and the governor can’t ever agree on anything and get along.”

Poor New Yorkers in particular, she said, are looking to de Blasio to relieve them of this particular financial burden. “To me this is a relatively low-hanging fruit issue,” Greer said, “where he could distance himself from the governor, he could be a champion for the poor...So I think the frustration is that de Blasio’s by far the most progressive of everyone who’s running, by far the one who cares the most about poor people in New York of all the candidates. So for him to ignore the issue in the way he has is frustrating and I think should be one of the primary issues moving forward. It’s just difficult because there’s no foil for him that helps push it.”

Of all those seeking to unseat de Blasio, Albanese has taken the most interest in the subways, riding them daily and tweeting pictures and comments. He’s said he plans to be “the transit mayor.” He blames de Blasio for not being vocal enough on the issue, while others have pointed out that de Blasio’s bad relationship with Gov. Cuomo is hurting the city on a variety of fronts.

It is to be seen whether Albanese can galvanize activists and regular New Yorkers who are frustrated by public transit to oppose de Blasio and support his candidacy. The same goes for Gangi and the issues he’s focused on, like police reform, and the Republican candidates, Malliotakis and Massey, who are still working to define their candidacies as other than anti-de Blasio.

“You used the term ‘race,’” said Muzzio, of Baruch, when asked about the key issues in the mayoral race. “There is no race either in the Democratic primary or the general election. So the issues will probably be understated, they won’t be widely publicized because of the nature of the competition.”

Muzzio said de Blasio is likely to talk about his accomplishments including implementing universal pre-kindergarten, lowering crime and creating affordable housing. “He’s gonna push all the issues that surround equality,” Muzzio added. “Opponents are going to hit him for more stylistic and political reasons, you know his questionable ethics, his chronic lateness, his arrogance, et cetera.”

As de Blasio’s campaign gathers momentum, a few of his priorities have become clear. He has already pledged a renewed effort to tackle the city’s affordability crisis, chiefly through a housing plan already underway and a new jobs plan announced in his State of the City earlier this year. Although the mayor has been slow to reveal an actual plan to create 100,000 “good-paying” jobs over the next ten years, it is likely to be a talking point that candidates on both sides of the aisle will address.

Another pressing issue, one that de Blasio was late to, is the closure of the Rikers Island jail complex. After facing significant political pressure from City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and others, and years of consistent advocacy by criminal justice reform activists, the mayor announced his intention to close Rikers jails in ten years. However, his administration has not created a blueprint for accomplishing that goal and nor has he provided sufficient clarity on how he would achieve the alternative of setting up community jails across four boroughs (He’s already promised that no new facility would be sited on Staten Island). Still, the mayor is already touting his Rikers decision on the campaign trail.

Other issues may also be forced upon the race by developments at the national level, including President Trump’s recent announcement of the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Accord on tackling climate change. De Blasio signed an executive order Friday for the city to voluntarily adhere to the accord’s benchmarks, not a stretch given the city’s prior commitments to larger environmental protection goals, but which thrust climate change into the city political discussion.

A variety of other topics will at least be touched on during the mayoral campaign, such as the city’s public housing authority, NYCHA, and public hospital system, both of which are in financial crisis, and de Blasio’s plans to rezone up to 15 neighborhoods as part of his affordable housing plan. It's clear, though, that the discussion will almost always center around de Blasio, his record and his character.

The race could also potentially be affected by the wild card candidacy of Bo Dietl, a private detective and retired NYPD officer. A brash Trumpian character, Dietl has invited controversy with his off-the-cuff, and off-color, remarks. He initially sought to run as a Democrat against de Blasio in the primary, and then attempted to get on the Republican ticket after making a mistake in his party registration. That effort failed as well when Republican county leaders refused to allow him to run on their party line (he’s still attempting to join one of the primaries, but may continue on as an independent, influencing the general election campaign). Dietl has raised most of the same issues as Massey and Malliotakis, with a focus on public safety, and has wealthy donors willing to back him, giving him the chance to play a somewhat disruptive role in the race.

by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

The Issues Likely to Dominate The 2017 Mayoral Race Tue, 06 Jun 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Republican Mayoral Candidates Noncommittal on De Blasio Paris Climate Order de blasio climate paris

(photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order Friday affirming New York City’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, from which President Donald Trump announced on Thursday that he would withdraw the United States. New York City, the president’s hometown, has terrain that makes the city especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which the Paris agreement seeks to mitigate by limiting global temperature increases. The agreement was signed by 195 countries in December 2015.

De Blasio had, on Wednesday, pledged to sign the executive order after reports came out hinting that Trump would withdraw from the deal, an action he had promised on the campaign trail, part of the president’s “America First” isolationist foreign policy and his long-standing doubts about the reality of climate change.

“The Paris Accord was the biggest step forward we've taken in many, many years, and it's unconscionable for the President of the United States to step away from it,” the Mayor said at a Wednesday press conference in Red Hook, Brooklyn, soon after reports started coming out of Trump’s decision. He added, “This is a dagger aimed straight at the heart of New York City.”

The Mayor has made fighting climate change a priority, pledging in 2014 to reduce city emissions by 80% below 2005 levels by 2050. Known as “80 x 50,” it is part of the Mayor’s larger OneNYC initiative.

In a statement on Thursday following the President’s official withdrawal announcement in the White House Rose Garden, the mayor claimed that that his own coming executive order would be signed so that “New York can remain a home for generations to come.”

De Blasio on Thursday joined more than 80 other "Climate Mayors,” representing more than 40 million Americans, in pledging to “adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement.” These goals all serve in the aim of keeping average temperatures from increasing by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. The Paris Accord seeks mitigation of greater than 2 degrees in temperature increases, but describes 1.5 degrees as a goal. These cities will now have to craft policy without the cooperation of the federal government. Some cities will also do it where their state governments are led by climate change deniers, such as in Texas.

Other mayors in New York signing the statement are the mayors of Albany and Syracuse. Governor Andrew Cuomo joined a similar agreement on Thursday, forming the United States Climate Alliance with the Governors of California and Washington State.

Any major action by de Blasio in this election year becomes fodder for the mayoral campaign, of course. The two main Republican candidates for mayor, Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis and real estate sales executive Paul Massey, are engaged in a heated primary where both de Blasio and President Trump loom large. (Before any general election matchup, de Blasio is facing a handful of Democratic primary challengers.)

Gotham Gazette asked both the Malliotakis and Massey campaigns whether the candidates would keep or rescind de Blasio’s Paris accord executive order if they were to win in November. Neither candidate has released a campaign agenda regarding climate change or the environment. Massey has begun releasing issue-based policy plans, while Malliotakis, who entered the race much more recently, has promised to do so soon.

Neither campaign gave a direct answer to the question.

The Massey campaign did affirm his support of the Paris Agreement but stopped short of committing to abide by de Blasio’s executive order were Massey to be elected mayor. The Malliotakis campaign avoided the question almost completely, stating that the mayor should be focusing on issues of local importance rather than national or international concern, on which he has little or no standing, a campaign spokesperson said.

"Bill de Blasio spends way too much time playing in national and now, international politics,” Malliotakis campaign spokesperson Rob Ryan said in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “He needs to address simpler problems far closer to home like schools that don't educate, the homeless crisis, a subway system overloaded with problems and city run hospitals that are hemorrhaging billions of our tax dollars, before he wades into climate diplomacy in Paris."

The mayor’s argument is that climate change and the Paris agreement to fight it are of significant local concern in New York City. The mayor has repeatedly referenced extreme weather, like superstorm Sandy, and the need for action to reduce the changes to the planet and thus their potential dangers.

Massey, who has never held elected office, doesn’t have a voting record on climate change to draw on, but Malliotakis does, having taken votes in the Assembly on environmental matters. She voted in 2014 to “require state funded projects to consider climate change effects” and voted against banning fracking. Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, implemented a fracking ban in 2014 after much deliberation.

Malliotakis also voted against the New York State Climate and Community Protection Act, a landmark climate bill strictly regulating greenhouse gas emissions in the state. It passed the Democratically-controlled Assembly in June 2016 by a 96-43 vote, but has stalled in committee in the Republican-controlled Senate. The version of the bill passed by the Assembly mandates stringent greenhouse gas limitations and, among other things, that 50% of New York State’s energy supply be provided by renewable energy by 2030. Cuomo instructed the Public Service Commission to order the “50 by 30” initiative in August of that year.

In 2016, Malliotakis received a score of 70 from the EPL/Environmental Advocates Scorecard, receiving points for voting for the Child Safe Products Act, a “super bill,” but losing points for voting against the Climate and Community Protection Act and a reduction on mercury in lightbulbs.

Despite her vote against the Climate and Community Protection Act, Malliotakis believes “that global warming is real and humans contribute to it,” Ryan said. “Her Assembly District was devastated by Hurricane Sandy and is still recovering from the damage.”

The Massey campaign followed up with Gotham Gazette to say that Massey "supports the Paris Agreement and believes that climate change is real. He is also concerned about the effect on business that such agreements can impose, and would address these issues as mayor with tax abatements and incentives to companies that are following best practice regarding the environment."

by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Note: this story has been updated with further comment from the Massey campaign.

Republican Mayoral Candidates Noncommittal on De Blasio Paris Climate Order Fri, 02 Jun 2017 04:00:00 +0000
GOP Mayoral Primary Appears To Be Massey Versus Malliotakis massey v malliotakis

Malliotakis, left, & Massey (photos: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)

The Republican field for the mayor’s race has winnowed down to two major candidates -- real estate executive Paul Massey and state Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis -- and a few longshot contenders with a minimal presence on the campaign trail. With just four months till the September primary and Malliotakis only in the race a few weeks, early signs indicate Republican Party officials may be split on Massey and Malliotakis while a contentious primary battle has quickly emerged.

Republican county leaders had hoped that they could rally around a single candidate and avoid the kind of primary that defined the 2013 race, one that they believe will only serve to strengthen the incumbent Democrat, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who already has a strong lead in fundraising and a distinct advantage in the city’s lopsided 6-to-1 voter registration in favor of Democrats. (De Blasio must of course first make his way through his own primary, where he is facing several candidates who have not established especially robust campaigns thus far.)

As of mid-May it appears that either Massey or Malliotakis will be the GOP nominee for Mayor, and the two have been jockeying for county party endorsements, as well as the ability to run on other ballot lines. Massey has secured the Independence Party line, Malliotakis the Conservative Party line.

GOP leaders rejected bombastic independent candidate Bo Dietl, a private detective and former police officer, refusing to hand him a waiver to run in the Republican primary (Dietl is still running as an independent and could take votes from the eventual Republican nominee). And Michel Faulkner, an outspoken Harlem pastor and former professional football player, jumped out of the mayor’s race to instead run for city comptroller against Scott Stringer, the Democratic incumbent. Another longshot candidate, actor and disability rights activist Darren Aquino, has little presence on the campaign trail and minimal campaign funds. Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, a California businessman and a Democratic presidential aspirant last year, moved to New York last month to run for mayor, but hasn’t displayed the political credentials to be able to shake up the race.

Massey and Malliotakis come from different wings of the Republican Party, with Massey a moderate billing himself as a “non-political” technocrat open to “ideas from across the political spectrum,” in the Michael Bloomberg mold; while Malliotakis -- as evidenced by her support from the Conservative Party -- is further to the right, though she has also claimed to not easily fit into any ideological orthodoxy.

Led by Malliotakis, the two have begun to snipe at each other, at news conferences and in public statements, a precursor perhaps to a more divisive campaign than the party hoped to see. Thus far, most of the negative campaigning has come from Malliotakis, who has said the mayoral race has lacked energy so far and promised to energize the electorate. She implies that Massey is not a true Republican, hitting him for making the maximum donations to Mayor de Blasio and Comptroller Scott Stringer’s 2013 campaigns (Massey also donated to Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota).

After the release of the latest Quinnipiac University poll on Wednesday, which showed de Blasio beating both candidates handily -- he received 64 percent of the vote against 21 percent for Malliotakis in a head-to-head race and 63 percent against Massey’s 21 percent -- Malliotakis’ campaign took an opportunity to undercut Massey, even calling for him to end his campaign.

“Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis entered the race at the beginning of May, so the results of today's poll don't mean much,” said Rob Ryan, campaign spokesperson, in a statement. “When voters get to know Nicole the numbers will change. What is obvious from the poll is that after months in the race, too many consultants to count and sky high expenditures Paul Massey's candidacy hasn't gained traction, that's sad. He should drop out of the race now.”

Massey, on the other hand, has said that Malliotakis lacks the experience to be the city’s top executive. His campaign points out that one of Malliotakis’ top donors, Margo Catsimatidis (wife of John, who ran for the Republican mayoral nomination in 2013), also gave the maximum donation to de Blasio this year. Pointing to the Quinnipiac poll, the campaign noted that 59 percent of Staten Island residents haven’t heard enough about Malliotakis even though she has served eight years in office representing parts of the borough.

“Paul Massey is building a coalition campaign,” said Mollie Fullington, a campaign spokesperson. “He is the Independence Party nominee, expects to be the Republican Party nominee, and he has a vision for this city and the ability to execute it. He is the only candidate who can beat Bill de Blasio in November.”

At this early stage in the race, the two candidates have yet to produce comprehensive policy platforms. Massey’s campaign has released detailed policy positions on a few key issues while Malliotakis, who has been in the race less than a month, has said she will do so soon. Though she has a voting and legislative record where Massey does not, of course.

Massey says he is “independent-minded,” rarely using the word “Republican” but styling himself on the model of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire technocrat and fusion candidate who successfully ran on multiple party lines to consolidate votes. In his attempt to earn Republican support, Massey has earned the backing of the Queens County Republican Party. On Monday, Faulkner endorsed Massey, who reciprocated with an endorsement of Faulkner for Comptroller. It’s unclear what help this may give to Massey, but Faulkner is an energetic campaigner who has been on the attack against de Blasio.

Malliotakis leans more conservative than Massey and proclaims that she is “the real Republican in the race for Mayor.” She has a degree of institutional support on her side. Her colleague, Staten Island Assemblymember Ron Castorina Jr., had originally endorsed Massey but withdrew his support and endorsed Malliotakis instead. Castorina was also recently named the new chair of the Staten Island Republican Party and it is likely that the borough’s party apparatus will get behind Malliotakis.

On Wednesday, Malliotakis received the Conservative Party endorsement. Among her top donors in early fundraising is the Sergeants Benevolent Association PAC, the campaign arm of the NYPD sergeants union, portending perhaps another key endorsement from its parent group. Malliotakis also received donations from billionaire supermarket mogul John Catsimatidis and his wife. Catsimatidis, who chose not to run himself this year (Malliotakis had said she’d drop from the race if he did), could potentially play a part by choosing to throw his immense resources into the mix.

J.C. Polanco, an attorney and Republican political consultant, believes the primary race will be “contentious” and that Massey and Malliotakis are working hard to excite the Republican base across the city. “[Malliotakis] brings this across-the-city sort of understanding of New York City Republicanism,” he said, also acknowledging that he’s been a close friend of the Assembly member for years, “of what it’s like to be a Republican in New York City, what it’s like to be in the minority in the Assembly and work on the issues that we care about and she has a following.” Polanco donated $50 to Malliotakis’ mayoral campaign and is exploring a run for public advocate himself.

Polanco says of Massey, “On the other hand you have someone that has the experience in business, that is raising enormous amounts of money and is also making the rounds, something that many New York Republicans are used to: the businessman Republican. So you’re gonna have a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party in New York City.”

Pointing out that Republican voters in the city tend to be ideologically diverse, he said it was incumbent on the two candidates to show broad appeal. “If [Massey] can raise the money to connect with voters and explain how his positions are in line with ours, he’ll do well,” Polanco said. “I think that by default Nicole Malliotakis is that nitty-gritty New York Republican and connects immediately with New York voters because she has a voting record. She’s from Staten Island, which by the way is the bastion of Republicanism. So she has some advantages. No question Massey has his advantages. So this is gonna be a really good opportunity for there to be a battle of ideas between both candidates.”

And short of both candidates slinging mud at each other, Polanco said a competitive primary will not hurt the party’s chances down the line. “I really hope they focus just on how they can be the best mayor of New York City, how they can represent our party moving forward,” he said. “I don’t think we run the risk of it hurting the party unless they get into the gutter.”

The two candidates’ positions on certain campaign issues, gleaned from public statements and campaign appearances, are largely similar. They are both fiscal conservatives, generally in keeping with the philosophy of national and New York Republicans. On their many criticisms of Mayor de Blasio, they often converge -- they have both called out the mayor’s record on crime with similar rhetoric; they’ve both criticized the mayor’s handling of the city’s schools and homelessness; they both believe that jails should remain on Rikers Island, though reformed and modernized. On other issues, their views are more divergent, however, such as New York’s status as a “sanctuary city” and some social issues -- Malliotakis voted against same-sex marriage in the Assembly in 2011, for example.

They have also shown a different approach to the use of taxpayer funds for their respective campaigns, though Malliotakis -- who plans to accept public matching funds -- used to criticize the city’s campaign finance system as a waste of taxpayer dollars. Massey is not accepting matching funds, in part so that he does not have to abide by some of the accompanying rules of the campaign finance system, particularly spending limits.

A look at how the two leading GOP mayoral candidates stack up as of mid-May:


Nicole Malliotakis

Paul Massey


Malliotakis, 35, has referred to herself as the “millennial” candidate and is the youngest candidate, and the only woman, in the mayoral race. A daughter of Cuban and Greek immigrants, she believes she can pull broad support from across the electorate, particularly Hispanics who tend to favor Democrats. Malliotakis grew up on Staten Island where she attended New Dorp High School. She attended Seton Hall University, where she received a bachelor’s degree and later attained an M.B.A. from Wagner College.

Massey, 56, is Irish Catholic and originally from Boston. He models himself as an “independent-minded” Republican in the vein of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He recently moved to the city from Larchmont in Westchester county, though he ran a business across the five boroughs for decades. Massey has a B.A. in economics from Colgate University.

Public Safety

Malliotakis has criticized Mayor de Blasio and the New York City Council for reducing penalties for low-level offenses including public urination. These offenses, she says, have increased in the city and contributed to a decline in quality of life. She supports the use of stop-and-frisk policing, insisting that the NYPD should have discretion in deciding when to employ the tactic. She believes the mayor has shown inadequate support for the NYPD and that interference in its functioning puts officers in danger.  

Massey has attempted to make public safety a prominent campaign issue. He opposes the decriminalization of low-level offenses, has decried worsening quality of life in the city, and believes the use of stop-and-frisk should be left up to NYPD discretion. Additionally, he has pledged to provide 24/7 uniformed police protection to religious institutions and religious-affiliated community centers during periods of active threat and supports community policing.


Malliotakis has criticized the mayor’s plan to put 90 new homeless shelters across the city.

Massey says he will launch an immediate review of the city’s homelessness policies and convert unsafe shelters into thousands of supportive housing units. He would also focus on programs that preemptively help families avoid homelessness. He has pledged to improve the pace of affordable housing development.

Economy, jobs, taxes & the city budget

Malliotakis has critiqued the $12.2 billion or 17 percent increase in the city’s budget under the current administration. She opposes de Blasio’s “tax and spend” policies and is pushing for increased spending on vocational training programs instead of the mayor’s proposed expansion of early childhood education.

Massey has vowed to reduce regulations on small businesses. He wants to promote job growth by simplifying the city’s permitting processes, eliminating fees, and proposes cutting business and property taxes. He also wants city programs, such as those for the homeless, to be linked with job training, internship and mentorship programs. He has decried the spending increases under de Blasio and promised better fiscal management.

Campaign Finance

Malliotakis has said she opposes public financing of elections but she will be participating in the Campaign Finance Board’s public matching funds program, which matches small dollar contributions up to $175 at a 6-to-1 ratio with public funds.

Massey has raised millions in donations, and personally loaned his campaign millions more. He’s also spent millions. He is opposed to using public funds for his campaign, going so far as to call on Mayor de Blasio to eschew participation in the program.


Malliotakis’ campaign is based on her opposition to the administration’s policies towards undocumented immigrants, whom she calls “illegal,” and she is critical of the city’s sanctuary city status. She has been particularly opposed to the city’s legal assistance for immigrants facing deportation and criminal charges. She also opposes the city’s attempts to limit cooperation with federal immigration officials and believes that the list of offenses that trigger that cooperation should be expanded. She has also sued the city to prevent the destruction of records from the immigrant-friendly IDNYC municipal identification program, which she has argued could pose a national security threat. She does, however, support a path to citizenship for law-abiding undocumented immigrants.

Massey has not argued against New York’s sanctuary city status, stating that it should remain as it is, and has opposed President Trump’s travel ban on immigration from certain Muslim-majority nations. But, he supports cooperation with federal immigration officials and has repeatedly said in the past that immigration policies need to be defined at the national level. He also supports a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He has attempted to distance himself from President Trump’s immigration policies and proposals.

Rikers Island

Malliotakis opposes the recently announced plan to close the Rikers Island jail complex. She insists, rather, that there must be sweeping reforms under a new commissioner for the Department of Correction.

Massey believes that Rikers Island should be reformed and modernized, with new facilities built on the island rather than across the five boroughs.


Malliotakis has said de Blasio’s Renewal Schools program has shown few results. She was also critical of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s free college tuition plan and has been advocating for the state to expand its Tuition Assistance Program to more families.

Massey criticized the mayor’s Renewal Schools program and his opposition to charter schools. He supports lifting the city’s cap on charters, providing an education tax credit, expanded vocational training, and increasing the number of specialized high schools. He also wants to bring back grades for school performance and implement teacher merit pay and performance incentives. His education platform includes creating Individualized Education Programs for every single student and providing financial literacy and life skills training in schools.



Massey is eager to see reinstatement of the 421-a tax credit for real estate developers to encourage the building of housing, including some affordable housing. He has said he will lift regulations that are “stifling new housing construction” and will allow development on unused city land. He also wants to decentralize zoning decisions from City Hall to communities.

Transit infrastructure


Massey has promised to invest in infrastructure across the five borough to reduce traffic congestion and vows a “total ground-up overhaul of city traffic management policies.”

by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

GOP Mayoral Primary Appears To Be Massey Versus Malliotakis Thu, 18 May 2017 04:00:00 +0000
The May Mayoral Money Race de blasio ferry wave

Mayor de Blasio (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)

Candidates in the running for Mayor in this year’s municipal elections filed their latest fundraising and expenditure reports with the New York City Campaign Finance Board on Monday. Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Democratic incumbent, leads the pack with more than $2.5 million in his campaign account, while those seeking to unseat him -- Democrats, Republicans, and others alike -- lag behind in terms of cash-on-hand. Those other candidates have shown varied levels of success in fundraising, and have approached spending their money differently as well. Several mayoral candidates have their eyes on the threshold for achieving public matching funds from the city’s Campaign Finance Board and the raise and spend bar for eligibility in the city-sanctioned primary debates.

With just four months till the September primary, candidates have begun to step up their fundraising efforts in order to pose a strong challenge to a mayor who is enjoying relatively comfortable polling numbers and is now able forge ahead with fundraising for the general election, having hit the maximum he can spend on the primary, with anticipated public matching funds.

De Blasio posted a $669,174 fundraising haul in the last two months and spent about $384,646. (The CFB requires campaign disclosure reports every two months in an election year.) He has raised $4.3 million and spent $1.8 million in total, leaving him with roughly $2.6 million in cash on hand. De Blasio has also consistently touted his participation in the CFB’s public matching funds program, which matches qualifying small dollar contributions up to $175 at a 6-to-1 ratio. The mayor’s latest numbers, combined with matching funds, put him over the threshold for the amount he can spend in the primary -- the limit is $6.96 million for mayoral candidates for each the primary and general -- and de Blasio can now begin to fund-raise for the general election.

“Our campaign’s focus on grassroots, small-dollar donors has powered us to more than 11,000 contributions, and we are now fully funded for a Primary campaign,” said Elana Leopold, finance director for de Blasio’s campaign, in a statement. “Under Mayor de Blasio, crime is at record lows, jobs are at record highs, and the City is building affordable housing at a record rate. New Yorkers want to keep that progress going, and that is why so many people from all five boroughs are supporting our campaign.”

At least four other candidates are running in the Democratic primary, but none has shown significant fundraising prowess. Two of the candidates are relatively known quantities - Sal Albanese, a former City Council member and a mayoral candidate in the 2013 race; and Bob Gangi, a veteran police reform advocate. Both Albanese and Gangi are vocal critics of the mayor -- with Albanese focused on the mayor’s ethics and management, and Gangi focused on the mayor’s policing policies as well as affordable housing and other programs.

Albanese has raised $82,838 so far -- $26,852 in the last filing period -- and spent $5,920 in total. Gangi has raised $6,404 for his campaign and personally loaned himself another $45,000. Having spent about $4,000, he has $47,491 in his campaign account. The two other contenders, retired FDNY lieutenant Kevin Coenen and entrepreneur Colin Slattery, have barely made a mark in fundraising.

On the Republican side, the candidate closest to de Blasio in fundraising is Paul Massey, a real estate executive who recently moved from Larchmont, Westchester to the city to run for mayor. Massey, who ran a commercial property sales business throughout the city and is also spending a lot of his own money on his campaign, raised $555,786 the last two months, but spent $1.3 million in the same time.

Massey has raised $3.03 million since the start of the race, and has personally loaned his campaign about $2.7 million, of which he’s repaid $1.1 million. But his runaway spending, totalling $3.7 million, has left him $607,963 in campaign funds. A moderate, Massey has promised to incorporate ideas from across the political spectrum and has the backing of the Independence Party. He’s vowed raise and contribute enough of his own money so that his campaign will never want for funds, but he is also spending at an unmatched clip, with the primary several months off and things just heating up.

“I am pleased with how our fundraising is going. I am the only candidate not using taxpayer funds, and I am not beholden to special interests,” Massey said in an email blast.

The only other seemingly viable Republican candidate, Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, just recently entered the race and began to fund-raise. Within the three weeks that she’s been running leading up to the recent filing deadline, she raised $94,624 and spent just $570. She also owes $12,000 to a marketing and polling firm. But Malliotakis is also a participant in the public funds program, meaning she will have to raise far less than Massey and still be able to be competitive. As the Staten Island Advance recently reported, Malliotakis used to bash the matching funds program as a misuse of taxpayer money.

Malliotakis has some name recognition and a base of support as an elected official. She also has a record of serving in public office, though it is unclear how much her legislative record will help her. She is decidedly more conservative than Massey, which could help her in the Republican primary but make her less viable in a general election. Fundraising, political ideology, general election viability, and other factors are being considered as Republican and Conservative county parties make their endorsements.

In an email touting her fundraising numbers, Malliotakis was confident she would meet the thresholds for the public funds program. “While I am extremely happy with our results and the potential they show, I am also well aware that we have a lot of catching up to do to match the stockpile of ‘pay-to-play’ donations in Bill de Blasio’s campaign coffers,” she said. “While he’ll continue to be funded by the special interests and the business as usual crowd, my campaign will remain focused on donations from hard-working New Yorkers who share the core belief that Bill de Blasio and his progressive policies are progressively bad for New York.”

Businessman Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, a California native, moved to New York in April to run for mayor as a Republican. De La Fuente previously ran a longshot presidential campaign as a Democrat. He has raised $40,240, lent himself another $250,000 and spent about $2,000. He has $265,700 in cash on hand. Darren Aquino, an actor and disability rights activist, is also running on the Republican line but has raised no more than $1,800 since the start of the race, spending a little more than half that amount.

A number of independent candidates have also joined the race, most prominent among them being Richard “Bo” Dietl, a private detective and former NYPD officer with a brash Trumpian temperament. Dietl first sought to run in the Democratic primary but made an error on his registration, forcing him to run as an independent. He also attempted to get a waiver from Republican County leaders to run on the Republican line but ran afoul of the party after making apparently racist remarks about First Lady Chirlane McCray at a GOP candidate forum in Manhattan. Dietl raised $169,850 over this last filing and spent $150,818. He has raised $580,058 overall and spent $227,276, leaving $346,782 at his disposal.

Eight other independents are running for mayor as well, but most have little or no money to their name. The exception is Michael Tolkin, a millennial candidate who lent his campaign about $100,000 and raised about $2,000. He has about $15,000 left to use, however, after spending about $54,000 and owing another $32,000 for consulting fees and campaign literature.

by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette

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The May Mayoral Money Race Tue, 16 May 2017 04:00:00 +0000