Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/475 Fri, 23 Apr 2021 00:04:50 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Manhattan Assembly Member Tries to Hold Seat After Missing Democratic Ballot Line https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/9855-seawright-manhattan-upper-east-side-assembly-seat-losing-democratic-line-puliafito https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/9855-seawright-manhattan-upper-east-side-assembly-seat-losing-democratic-line-puliafito Rebecca Seawright & Lou Puliafito

Lou Puliafito & Rebecca Seawright


Last time she faced a Republican challenger, in 2016, Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright won by a margin of nearly 50 points. Her Assembly district, which includes the Upper East Side, Yorkville, and Roosevelt Island, has a solid Republican presence but is generally considered a firmly Democratic stronghold. Yet due to a series of ballot controversies, Seawright’s reelection bid has been thrust into some uncertainty this year.

The trouble started for the Assembly member this Spring, when her campaign failed to include a cover page for her petition filings for the June Democratic primary, in which she was to have run unopposed. She then attempted to run in the general election on the Working Families Party ballot line, but the courts determined that the deadline had already passed. This left open the possibility that the Republican nominee, Lou Puliatifo, would be the only candidate on the ballot for voters of the 76th Assembly District.

But Seawright got the required signatures to run on the self-created “Rise and Unite” ballot line, with the backing of much of the Democratic establishment but some reason to be nervous about how voters in her district may react to seeing no name on the Democratic Party line for Assembly. Given what’s unfolded her campaign has brought in some of the party’s biggest names, both locally and nationally, to help make sure Democratic voters know she’ll be on the ballot -- somewhere. The party’s two most recent presidential candidates, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Joe Biden, have announced endorsements of Seawright, with Clinton even Zoom-ing in for a virtual event.

The Assembly member’s path to reelection has also been complicated by progressive activist Patrick Bobilin, who ran against City Council Member Ben Kallos in 2017 and jumped into the Assembly race on his own “Blue Wave” independent ballot line. Sensing a threat, Seawright’s campaign sought to have Bobilin kicked off the ballot, and in late September the Appellate Division ruled that Bobilin did not meet the residency requirement for the office, after the State Supreme Court initially concluded that he did meet the requirement.

Bobilin decried the court’s ruling, saying it “portends a negative impact on young people who want to run for office if they were ever outside of the state for any reason,” but has since decided to suspend his campaign. Given the timing of the ruling, Bobilin’s name appeared on a small batch of absentee ballots that went out.

He has said that he will be running again in 2022.

But it’s unclear who the incumbent will be.

Puliafito, who works as a doorman, garnered 3.5% of the vote as the Reform Party candidate for the seat in 2018, with no Republican nominee that year, to Seawright’s 96%. He has received significant attention from the media and Republicans given the incumbent’s ballot challenges and the outside chance for the GOP to pick up a seat -- there are currently no Manhattan Republicans elected to New York City or State government.

Seawright has significant advantages despite the ballot snafu, particularly the district’s Democratic voter enrollment advantage, her name recognition as an Assembly member since 2015, endorsements including big name politicians as well as labor unions, and fundraising. Seawright is one of more than 100 Democrats in the majority in the Assembly, which has 150 seats across the state.

As of the 11-day pre-general election financial disclosures, Seawright had raised $133,961 in the latest period, including $60,000 from the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee in October alone, and had $120,608 in cash-on-hand while continuing to raise more funds. Comparatively, Puliafito raised $1,426 in his last filing and had a balance of $1,483. (In that filing, Bobilin reported $11,384 in donations and had $10,802 in balance.)

According to Census Reporter, The 76th Assembly District is predominantly white (72% of residents are white compared to 56% of New York State as a whole) and significantly wealthier than the rest of the state (the median household income is more than 50% higher in the district than the rest of the state). As of February 2020, there were 58,748 Democrats in the district compared to 15,690 Republicans, out of 101,185 registered voters, in the district, according to data from the state Board of Elections.

Rebecca Seawright
In an interview, Assemblymember Seawright emphasized what she sees as her top legislative accomplishments and leadership positions. She serves as secretary of the Assembly’s majority Democratic Conference and sits on the judiciary, education, and consumer affairs committees. She cites a “proven track record of passing legislation” that includes cosponsoring the codification of Roe v. Wade into New York state law and sponsoring legislation requiring health insurance providers to cover mammograms.

She also cosponsored the recent repeal of section 50-A of the Civil Rights law, which is providing greater transparency regarding police disciplinary records.

“I’ve given over $12 million to our local public schools, libraries, and parks and will continue to fight for additional funding, especially during this pandemic,” Seawright said, referring to government funding she’s secured for the district. She said that she would support legislation to “cancel rent” as a result of the pandemic and related economic catastrophe “until after January.”

Asked about the state’s looming budget deficit, Seawright said, “I think we need to look at new ways to raise revenue and we need to continue to push for federal relief money out of Washington.” She supports a “millionaires’ tax” to raise revenue, she said, likely meaning raising taxes on those earning above $1 million annually on top of the higher rates they already pay.

“I think it’s very important that we keep our buses clean, accessible, and on time,” said Seawright, when asked about other top priorities for her constituents.

Seawright’s district office was the target of anti-Semitic vandalism in August and she said that she is currently sponosirng legislation in Albany “to strengthen our hate crime law.”

“I’m running on my record,” Seawright said. “I treat each problem as if it were my own and I take it very seriously.” She also said that election reform will be a top priority for her in the next session, after nearly failing to make the ballot herself, so as to provide “more access to people to run for office and for people to understand the election process.”

Lou Puliafito
“I don’t like either party,” Puliafito said in an interview, but added that “when you have a one-party town, there’s no accountability” and that he is “fed up with party politics and pointing at each other.” He notes that he is also on the Liberal Party ballot line, for any voters in the district squeamish about voting for a Republican.

Puliafito, a former IT professional who became a part-time doorman in retirement, was quick to emphasize that he’s not a typical Republican candidate and at times distanced himself from the national party, saying, “This is a local election. It has nothing to do with Washington.”

Puliafito voiced support for further increases to the minimum wage, saying, “I’m a union guy. I know it’s $15, but I think it needs to be more.”

On affordable housing, he said, “I don’t have the patent on what’s the right thing to do” and that he would bring stakeholders together to compromise if elected. However, he decried recent new developments in the district as “creeping gentrification” and voiced concerns about the cost of living in the district. He has also stressed what he sees as a lack of safety on the streets of the district and the need for stronger law enforcement while criticizing bail reforms that the state passed in 2019.

Puliafito criticized the current state of governing on Roosevelt Island, calling for the board of the Roosevelt Island Operation Cooperation (RIOC) to be elected by the island’s residents so that it is “accountable and transparent.” The RIOC board is currently appointed by the Governor.

Election day is Tuesday, November 3. Early voting is already underway and all registered voters are eligible to vote by absentee ballot.

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by Andrew Millman, Gotham Gazette
   

Read more by this writer.

Note: this article has been corrected to reflect that Puliafito will be on the Liberal Party line, not the Conservative Party line.

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Manhattan Assembly Member Tries to Hold Seat After Missing Democratic Ballot Line Mon, 26 Oct 2020 04:00:00 +0000
As Cuomo Proposes Expansive Equal Rights Amendment Favored in Senate, Assembly Again Passes Narrow Version https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/9043-cuomo-legislators-seek-2020-agreement-on-expanded-state-equal-rights-amendment https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/9043-cuomo-legislators-seek-2020-agreement-on-expanded-state-equal-rights-amendment wash wom rights

Gov. Cuomo with Assemblymember Seawright, center, & others (photo: Governor's Office)


Governor Andrew Cuomo is promoting a more expansive version of a New York State equal rights amendment than he did last year, tipping the balance between the discrepant Assembly and Senate bills in the direction of inclusivity, favored by the Senate.

Despite Cuomo’s new support for a broader set of protections, the Assembly on Monday passed a narrower expansion for the second year in a row, renewing uncertainty about the amendment’s future.

In 1938, New York adopted language to prohibit discrimination based on race, color, creed, and religion, a measure the governor now says “reflects an outdated conception of equality” and is in need of updating. In his State of the State policy book outlining his agenda for the 2020 legislative session, Cuomo calls for amending New York’s constitution to include civil rights protections against not only sex-based discrimination, as some other states have done, but discrimination on the basis of a host of other categories from gender identity to national origin.

"In New York, we believe in full equality for every person—period," Cuomo said in a statement announcing the proposal. "But our federal and state constitutions don't protect against discrimination on the basis of sex, ethnicity, gender identity and other characteristics that make us so unique and our diversity so great. That ends this year.”

Under the governor’s proposal, the state’s bill of rights would be amended to add to the list of protected categories sex, ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. While state law in many areas addresses some of these forms of discrimination, supporters of the ERA say statutes are often context-specific and tend not to be as broadly applicable as a constitutionally protected right.

“Having a constitutional amendment will cover all of those groups, all of these protected categories, and you don’t have to pass and change every law. It will apply to all the laws of the state,” said Beverly Cooper Neufeld, president of the advocacy organization PowHer NY and a member of the city’s Commission on Gender Equality.

This is not the first time Cuomo has proposed an ERA, and the governor is not the only lawmaker in Albany pushing for its adoption. Last year, Cuomo supported a narrower proposal that would have added sex as the only new protected category. That was the form that passed the Assembly in February 2019 and again Monday, but which was put aside in the Senate for a broader set of protections.

Cuomo’s renewed proposal now more closely aligns with the equal rights amendment that passed the State Senate last June, which Neufeld says reflects a changing wind in Albany’s progressive corridors. It is unclear why the Assembly did not pass an expanded version when it became evident that was the direction the Senate was moving in, or why it passed the narrower version again at the start of the 2020 legislative session.

“We’ve been taking a piecemeal approach to addressing equality, and even our concept of equality has changed and our concept of fairness and who should be covered,” Neufeld said. Much of the changing attitudes towards civil rights protections has been reflected in statute like the New York State Human Rights Law, which she said “has step-by-step created stronger protections and looks and adds new categories.”

“But really you can’t go statute by statute. That process will take hundreds of years,” she added.

Adopting an ERA will not be an overnight process either. Because it requires amending the state’s constitution, it will need to be passed by two consecutive legislatures and then must to be approved by voters. The current session ends this year, meaning the earliest an ERA can be adopted is in late 2021. That timeline assumes the amendment passes both houses of the legislature this year and again next year, and then is ratified in a November 2021 statewide referendum.

But with multiple versions of the bill -- the narrow and the expansive -- floating in the legislature, and the recent history of dissonance between the legislative chambers, it is unclear what form conversations around the measure will take.

“It’s not too soon to be talking about this. It’s going to be at least a three-year campaign I would say, if not longer,” Neufeld said.

Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, a Manhattan Democrat, sponsors both versions of the ERA in her chamber. "I’m committed to an Equal Rights Amendment with language that is more inclusive. I will continue to work diligently with my colleagues in the Assembly and the Senate to pass ERA  legislation in 2020,” she wrote in an email this past Thursday.

Following the passage of the narrow ERA Monday, a spokesperson for Seawright told Gotham Gazette by email, "Assembly Member Seawright is committed to an Equal Rights Amendment that provides for the widest inclusion possible. Today's passage helps to build momentum as we continue to listen and work toward a successful outcome." The narrow amendment’s sponsor in the Senate is Julia Salazar, a Brooklyn Democrat who often stakes out more progressive territory than other legislators.

A legislative staffer with knowledge of the bills and the legislative process told Gotham Gazette last week that it was too soon in the session to know which way the Assembly Democratic conference was leaning. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Likewise, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins’ office did not respond to requests for comment on the ERA.

“Governor Cuomo is committed to having the most inclusive ERA in the nation and we are working closely with the legislature and coalition stakeholders to get it passed this year,” said Caitlin Girouard, a spokesperson for the governor.

Both versions of the amendment are a step ahead of federal constitutional protections. Congress in 1972 passed a federal equal rights amendment that would have extended protections to women, but it was never ratified by the states. Eleven states have passed state-level ERAs that bar discrimination based on sex, but none go further in protecting LGBTQ rights or the rights of people with disabilities, according to Senator Liz Krueger, who sponsors the Senate’s expansive ERA bill.

“Many New Yorkers are surprised when they discover that women or LGBTQ people, for example, are not protected by the equal rights language in our state constitution,” Krueger, also a Manhattan Democrat, wrote in an email to Gotham Gazette.

While, in the final days of session last year, Cuomo urged the Senate to pass the narrower version of the bill rather than leaving Albany with no amendment at all, the governor is now resetting this year with the more aspirational call. Part of that thrust is in the face of the more limited progress nationwide. “We will pass an expanded, nation-leading Equal Rights Amendment so that no matter what happens at the federal level, all New Yorkers will be afforded the complete and unequivocal protections they deserve," Cuomo said in the statement.

“Last year we passed a real, inclusive ERA in the Senate. This year, with the Governor as a partner in the fight, there is no reason we can’t have first passage of a fully inclusive ERA in both houses of the Legislature, and take our state one step closer to having a constitution that reflects and protects all New Yorkers," Krueger wrote.

“It will be meaningful to individuals but I think it will be meaningful in the statement that it makes. The governor bringing it up at this moment in time is very important,” said Neufeld.

***
by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note: This article has been updated with comment from a spokesperson for Assembly Member Seawright following the passage of an ERA bill in the Assembly Monday.

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As Cuomo Proposes Expansive Equal Rights Amendment Favored in Senate, Assembly Again Passes Narrow Version Mon, 13 Jan 2020 05:00:00 +0000
Legislators Search for Common Ground on Expansion of Equal Rights Amendment https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8615-legislators-search-for-common-ground-on-expansion-of-equal-rights-amendment https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8615-legislators-search-for-common-ground-on-expansion-of-equal-rights-amendment Cuomo New York equal rights pride

(photo: Governor's Office)


The state Senate embraced the notion that the civil rights protections enshrined in the New York state constitution should be more inclusive when it decisively passed an expansive version of an equal rights amendment Monday.

The Senate’s amendment goes a step farther than other equal rights amendments by expanding the equal protection clause of the state bill of rights to outlaw discrimination not only based on sex, but also on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, national origin, ethnicity, age, and ability. Currently, the state constitution only prohibits discrimination based on a person’s “race, color, creed or religion.”

“Today, we further the fight for justice for women by moving this crucial amendment forward. At the same time, we are standing up for the rights of the LGBTQ community, the elderly, and the disabled,” said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a statement.

The amendment, which had unanimous support in the Senate (it passed 62-0 in the 63-seat chamber), differs significantly from the version that passed in the Assembly in February, namely on the number of protected classes added and language clarifying the meaning of “civil rights.”

The Assembly’s version, which also passed with a groundswell of support, simply adds the word “sex” to the equal protection clause, extending constitutional protections to women but no further. These differences will have to be reconciled for the amendment to advance.

Governor Andrew Cuomo made passing an equal rights amendment that would ban discrimination based on sex a top priority this year, including it in his “2019 Justice Agenda” released in December, and listing it at the end of May among ten priorities identified for the final stretch of the legislative session, which is scheduled to end this week.

Unlike other state law changes, which simply need to pass both chambers of the Legislature and be signed by the Governor, amendments to the state constitution must be passed by two consecutive Legislatures and then be approved directly by voters via ballot referendum. The current Legislature was sworn-in in January to a two-year term, meaning the second passage of the amendment would have to take place in either 2021 or 2022 in order for it to be put before voters in a referendum. The earliest the amendment could go into effect is late 2021, if it is passed this year or next, then again in 2021 by both houses of the Legislature and voters.

A number of the protections in the Senate’s equal rights amendment are already contained in the state’s Human Rights Law, including for gender expression thanks to the passage of GENDA earlier this year, but putting them in the state constitution makes them stronger.

“Generally when things are listed in the equal protection clause there’s a standard of review that’s attached to constitutional principles that do not attach to statute,” said Alphonso David, the governor’s counsel, at a press conference on June 3.

The Senate’s version, by defining the phrase “civil rights,” would also make the constitutional provision self-executing, meaning protections for individual civil rights won’t have to be affirmed in subsequent legislation, as is currently the case.

The Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was first introduced in 1923, but has never been ratified. Since then, 11 states have adopted equal rights amendments that protect women’s civil rights, according to a press release from state Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat and the amendment’s main sponsor in the upper chamber. “New York is not one of those 11 states. No state has explicitly granted equal rights to LGBTQ people or the disabled,” the press release reads.

At the June 3 press conference, the governor said he would support an expanded version of the amendment in the future but didn’t believe the Assembly would pass one in the final days of the legislative session.

“I am totally open to, in the future, adding other classes -- which is what the Senate wants to do. But let’s achieve what we can achieve today and where we have agreement today,” Cuomo said at the press conference, referring to the addition of “sex” to the amendment.

He blames the uncertainty of the amendment on the “failed Albany game” of feigning support for a concept but falling short of passing legislation. With different versions of the amendment on the table, much of the political heavy-lifting of securing majority support in both chambers lays ahead even as nearly everyone agrees equal rights protections should be broadened.

“There’s 11 days left,” Cuomo said on June 3. “Pass that bill. Next year, come back and I fully support expanding the class even greater.” This is “the old Albany formula for failure. Assembly wants to do this, Senate wants to do this, nothing happens.”

“I don’t believe we can get agreement on it this year in 11 days,” Cuomo said of an expanded amendment.

Discussions are ongoing to bring the equal rights amendment closer to passage.

“We are continuing to urge colleagues in both the Assembly and the Senate to search for common ground.  We will see when the dust clears how much more work has to be done,” said Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, in an email to Gotham Gazette. Seawright, a Manhattan Democrat, is the main sponsor of the narrower version of the amendment that passed her chamber in February, and also of a broader companion to the Senate’s amendment.

With the clock ticking on the session, the governor has said his focus now is on the passage of other marquee reforms, namely expanding the prevailing wage and legalizing recreational marijuana, but a host of issues are finding resolution among the Senate, Assembly, and governor’s office, and an end-of-session “big ugly” omnibus bill could be in the works, with untold number of aspects.

“Fortunately we have until the end of next year's legislative session to get first passage in both houses in order to stay on schedule with the amendment process,” said Justin Flagg, communications director for Krueger.

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Legislators Search for Common Ground on Expansion of Equal Rights Amendment Tue, 18 Jun 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Manhattan GOP Sees Hope on Upper East Side https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6497-manhattan-gop-sees-hope-on-upper-east-side https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6497-manhattan-gop-sees-hope-on-upper-east-side Harary AD73

Rebecca Harary with supporters (photo via @TeamHarary)


When it comes to the New York State Legislature, most electoral attention is paid to the Senate, which Republicans control by a thin majority and only because an elected Democrat caucuses with them and they have a power-sharing agreement with a five-member faction of breakaway “independent” Democrats. This November’s elections will determine control of the chamber.

In the State Assembly, however, the balance of power is not close. Republicans have been at a massive disadvantage. The Democrats have a stranglehold on the house, which is unlikely to drastically shift come November - Democrats currently hold 104 seats to the Republicans’ 44 (one seat is held by a Working Families Party member and there is one vacancy in the 150-seat chamber). This holds particularly true for seats in New York City, a liberal bastion that helps make New York an overwhelmingly blue state. There are currently only two Republican Assembly members, both from Staten Island, representing New York City’s 66 Assembly districts.

But come November, the Manhattan GOP believes it can make inroads and put not one, but two of their own in Assembly seats on the Upper East Side where Republicans believe that registered Democrats won’t necessarily vote along the party line.

Manhattan Republicans are banking on voting trends from 2013, when Mayor Bill de Blasio’s landslide victory wasn’t reflected on the Upper East Side and he lost the neighborhood to his GOP opponent, Joe Lhota, by double digits.

“The Upper East Side is very Bloomberg-centric,” said Adele Malpass, chair of the Manhattan Republican Party, insisting that the neighborhood tends to vote along more conservative lines. “The Upper East Side is not a progressive spot,” she said. The neighborhood is predominantly white and relatively affluent, and has historically supported Republican mayoral candidates. Malpass hopes her party can tap this sentiment in the upcoming election, and win the 73rd and 76th Assembly districts by defeating Democratic incumbents.

The two districts run side by side on the East Side: District 73 extends from 34th Street to 94th Street, bounded by 5th avenue on it’s west side. On the east, it reaches the river in certain sections but mostly stops at 3rd Avenue where District 76 begins. District 76 stretches from 61st to 92nd Street, and includes Roosevelt Island.

While it may be an uphill battle - incumbents are exceedingly difficult to beat - Republicans see some reason for optimism. "The Upper East Side is where we have the best odds of winning a seat this election, but it can't be done without your support and involvement," Malpass recently wrote in an e-newsletter to Manhattan GOP subscribers.

The 73rd district is represented by Assemblymember Dan Quart, who has held the seat since winning it in a special election in 2011. He’s being challenged by Rebecca Harary, a community activist with a long history of nonprofit work. She founded a school for children with autism and a high school for teenagers with mild learning disorders. She is currently the  founding executive director of the Propel Network, an organization that helps Jewish women enter the workforce. She is a mother of six and grandmother of seven, she said in an interview.

In the 76th district, first-term Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright, elected in 2014, will face off against Jon Kostakopoulos, a writer for financial news website The Street and former director of field operations for John Catsimatidis’ 2013 mayoral campaign. Kostakopoulos is also Catsimatidis’ godson and the supermarket magnate is set to host a fundraiser for Kostakopoulos in late September.

The two challengers believe they have a solid chance to make these races competitive by focusing on a few core issues -- quality of life, public safety, transportation and education -- and they aren’t worried that the Democrats have an enrollment advantage over Republicans in Manhattan. Active registered Democrats in the borough outnumber Republicans 8 to 1, but that ratio in the 76th district is only about 3.3 to 1, and in the 73rd district it's even closer at 2.5 to 1. 

“We have an absentee Assemblyman,” said Rebecca Harary about Quart, in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette. “His silence is deafening, and that speaks volumes about the leadership in this district.” Democrats, she said, and particularly Mayor Bill de Blasio, are responsible for rising homelessness and worsening quality of life in the district and across the city. Her opponent, she said, is a company man like most incumbent Democrats. “They’re just going to vote the company line and make no waves,” she said, insisting that there’s a need for an independent voice in the district. “It’s time to ask the real questions,” she said.

Her top priority, besides public safety, is education. She supports charter schools and believes the state should offer tuition tax credits, with increased income thresholds, to parents who choose to send their children to private and parochial schools.  

Assemblymember Quart doesn’t seem worried about the challenge from Harary. “I look forward to November,” he said. His plan is to run on the successes of the last five years, he said, pointing to improvement of air quality in the district, sponsoring and passing legislation on criminal justice issues and helping secure $1 billion in additional funding to the MTA Capital Plan for the Second Avenue subway line. “By any objective measure, I’ve been successful in helping my constituents,” he said.

“I run on my record,” he added. “The politics will work itself out.” Quart has a significant fundraising advantage over his opponent. He has raised more than $335,000 for the race compared to Harary’s $59,000. (Quart also has a city campaign account with $104,375 in it for a possible future race, but he said he does not intend to run for any city office in 2017.)

Fellow Democrat Rebecca Seawright is also confident about her prospects, although she’s not being complacent about the race. “I’m a full-time legislator, I take this job very seriously,” she told Gotham Gazette, alluding to the fact that state legislators are technically part-time and allowed to earn outside money, which has gotten some into trouble.

Seawright said she’s had a successful first term in the Assembly majority. “I’ve passed 10 pieces of legislation and seven have been signed into law by the governor,” she said, also touting her 100 percent attendance record.

Refutes Republicans’ assertion that quality of life is decreasing in the district, Seawright said, “I’m extremely proud of the progress that’s been made. We’re constantly picking up the phone and reaching out to city agencies about getting the homeless into shelters, picking up garbage.”

Seawright is also confident that with Hillary Clinton on the top of the Democratic ticket, voter turnout will be robust on the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island, which falls in her district. One aspect strongly in Seawright’s favor is her opponent’s late entry into the fray. Kostakopoulos started his campaign only a few weeks ago - he’s holding a campaign launch event September 8 - and has yet to raise any money. Seawright has just short of $100,000 in the bank.

Kostakopoulos told Gotham Gazette he got into the race because Seawright would otherwise have been uncontested, and that during her tenure, quality of life, particularly the issue of homelessness, has become abysmal in District 76. “I’ve been there my entire life and I’ve never seen it so bad,” he said in a phone interview, mentioning homelessness specifically.

He doesn’t intend to make an ideological appeal to voters, however. “I’m not running as a Republican or a Democrat even though I’m on the Republican line,” he said. “I’m running as a resident of the 76th district.” Calling himself a “New York Republican” like former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he said he appeals to voters on the Upper East Side who are socially liberal and fiscally conservative.

If elected, he intends to advocate for quicker completion of the Second Avenue subway, which he said has been perennially delayed under Assembly Democrats. “These career politicians have had enough time,” he said. “Someone’s got to be held accountable.”

Republicans are hoping to see a repeat of the results of the 2013 mayoral race and Manhattan party Chair Malpass is rallying the troops on that message. In an email blast to subscribers, she laid out the strategy and outlined five upcoming events for the candidates, including Kostakopoulos’ campaign launch and fundraiser.

“What we accomplish between now and Election Day will lay the groundwork for winning the Mayor's race in 2017 and making Bill deBlasio [sic] a one-term Mayor,” the email reads. They intend to reach out to independents and moderate Democrats and will use “cutting edge campaign technology” to do so, including merging their voter rolls with internet services and online publications for targeted ads and narrowing down specific buildings and districts to directly reach voters online. It is important that they are funded to do the work, the party wrote.

But relying on the 2013 mayoral voting numbers may be problematic. Steve Romalewski, director of the CUNY Mapping Service at the Center for Urban Research/The Graduate Center, pointed out that just the next year (2014), in both the 73rd and 76th districts, the Democratic candidates won with overwhelming majorities. “I don’t see how the mayoral results have anything to do with the likelihood of a Republican winning either seat,” he said of the Assembly races, pointing out that Democrats have won these districts all the way back to 2000. “That’s just a reality of the New York City electoral patterns,” he said. “There tends to be a vast difference between municipal elections and state elections, and executive branch results and legislative branch results.”

“If the Republican candidates are trying to pin their hopes on the results of the 2013 mayoral election,” he said, “they’ll be sadly mistaken and they should rethink their strategy.”

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note: this article has been updated.

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Manhattan GOP Sees Hope on Upper East Side Fri, 26 Aug 2016 04:00:00 +0000
The Week Ahead in New York Politics, November 23 https://www.gothamgazette.com/government/6002-the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-november-23 https://www.gothamgazette.com/government/6002-the-week-ahead-in-new-york-politics-november-23 New York City Hall

New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

Thanksgiving week will see just a few days of political activity, but the beginning of the week is looking busy. Highlights include closing arguments in Sheldon Silver's corruption trial; the continuation of Dean Skelos' corruption trial; the release of the Public Advocate's "worst landlord list"; several City Council hearings and a full-body "Stated Meeting"; two public meetings of the city's commission on elected official compensation; and more. See our day-by-day rundown below.

First, in case you haven't seen some of our most recent reporting, a few highlights:

[To read more of the latest from Gotham Gazette, click here; to subscribe to our newsletters, click here]

Mayor Bill de Blasio had no public schedule Saturday. On Sunday, the mayor, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro, and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson observed "an active shooter drill in Lower Manhattan." After that, the mayor was delivered remarks at Church of God of Prophecy in the Bronx, where he was hosted by City Council Member Vanessa Gibson, among others.

On Monday, de Blasio "will deliver remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony for Hunter's Point South Phase II" at noon; "host a press conference to make an announcement related to mental health" with First Lady Chirlane McCray at 2 p.m. at CUNY Hunter College - Silberman School of Social Work; and hold a media availability at about 3 p.m. nearby the school.

 

***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: bmax@gothamgazette.com***

The run of the week in detail:

Monday
At the City Council on Monday, November 23:

  • At 10 a.m. the Committee on Public Safety and the Committee on Transportation will meet to hear the introduction of several bills regarding unmanned aviation vehicles (drones). They will focus on regulation, registration requirements and authorization of use.
  • At 10 a.m. the Committee on Youth Services will meet to discuss several new bills that would require training for certain employees in treating runaway, homeless, and sexually exploited youths, and amend the requirement date for the annual report on sexually exploited children.
  • At 1 p.m. the Committee on Education will meet for oversight on Department of Education’s efforts to help struggling schools. Schools chancellor Carmen Fariña will testify.
  • At 1 p.m. the Committee on Civil Service and Labor will meet to hear a series of new bills that would require successive employers of buildings to retain workers for a transitional time period and extend protections for displaced building service workers to food service workers.
  • At 1 p.m. the Committee on Environmental Protection will meet to hear a new bill that would require the identification of geothermal systems and buildings eligible for them, as well as registration for the people allowed to install such systems.

On Monday at 8 a.m., The Food Bank for New York will release a new report on the state of hunger and food networks in New York City. The “legislative breakfast” and report will examine the effects of federal cuts to SNAP cuts. Margarette Purvis, President and CEO, Food Bank For New York City; Steven Banks, Commissioner, New York City Human Resources Administration; Triada Stampas, Vice President For Research & Public Affairs, Food Bank For New York City, and “elected officials from throughout New York City” are expected.

At 8:30 a.m. The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and Business Forward will host a business leader forum to discuss the effects of severe climate change on the restaurant industry.

At 9 a.m. Monday in Long Island City, City Council "Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer will be joined by several New Yorkers who have applied and have not been selected for a variety of the City's affordable housing development lotteries throughout the five boroughs. Together, Council Member Van Bramer and these New Yorkers in need will express why they believe Airbnb needs to be held accountable for allowing tax-subsidized affordable housing units to be posted as illegal hotels on their website."

Later, Van Bramer will join the mayor for the aforementioned Hunter's Point groundbreaking.

At 11 a.m. in Foley Square, Public Advocate Letitia James "will hold a tenant rally and release the 2015 Worst Landlord Watchlist. Following the rally, Public Advocate James will visit Brooklyn Housing Court to ensure tenants are aware of their rights and then tour one of the buildings on the Worst Landlord Watchlist.".

At 11:15 a.m. Monday, State Senator Liz Krueger, together with community leaders and elected officials, will gather at the City Hall for a press conference which will urge Governor Andrew Cuomo to transition New York off of coal power by 2020. Senator Liz Krueger will be joined by State Senator Brad Hoylman; Assembly Members Brian Kavanagh, Rebecca Seawright and Jo Anne Simon; and City Council Members Donovan Richards and Dan Garodnick.
[Read Sen. Krueger's new op-ed on the subject: Time for New York to Cut the Coal]

At 12:45 p.m. Monday, City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, joined with Unite Here 100, will rally for food service worker retention, supporting a bill that expands upon the 2002 Displaced Building Service Worker Protection Act to include food service workers from being fired from work after a new owner takes over a business. A Council hearing will take place at 1 p.m.

On Monday at 2 p.m., Gov. Cuomo will be at the Jacob Javits Center to participate "in New York State's Annual Thanksgiving Food Donation Drive with volunteers and members of the New York National Guard."

At 5 p.m. the city’s Quadrennial Advisory Committee on elected officials’ compensation will hold its first of two community hearings to gather public feedback about its work. There is a state pay commission set to convene soon as well, we'll have details on that upcoming. [Read our recent look at the work ahead for the commission and the question of whether New York elected officials deserve a raise]

At 6 p.m. Monday, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s Red Tape Commission will hold a Staten Island hearing for business owners and entrepreneurs, part of the ongoing initiative to remake the government into a partner to businesses instead of being an “obstacle to growth”.

Also at 6 p.m. the Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams will hold a public hearing on East New York community planning.

Tuesday
At the State Legislature on Tuesday: at noon, the Assembly Standing Committee on Agriculture will convene for “Oversight of the SFY 2015-2016 State Budget for the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.”

At the City Council on Tuesday, November 24th:

  • At 10 a.m. the Committee on Finance will meet on a variety of topics.
  • At 1 p.m. the City Council Stated Meeting will be held - and as usual, it will be prefaced by the Speaker’s pre-stated press conference, at 12:30 p.m.

On Tuesday, "Mayor de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray will appear live on CNN's New Day to discuss ThriveNYC: The Mental Health Roadmap for All," at about 6:50 a.m. Later in the morning, "the Mayor will create and deliver food packages with Joel Berg of NYC Coalition Against Hunger." At about 11:45 a.m., "the Mayor will deliver remarks on hunger and food insecurity in New York City." At about 4 p.m., "the Mayor will join bi-partisan local elected officials – including Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Congressman Dan Donovan and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez – to host a press conference to highlight the need for increased federal transportation funding as New Yorkers prepare for holiday weekend travel."

On Tuesday, November 24th, Council Member Andy King will offer Free Healthcare Enrollment and Legal Services to Bronx Residents. In cooperation with MetroPlus and New York Legal Assistance Group the event will help residents sign up for health care and legal services.

At 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Comptroller Scott Stringer will deliver remarks at "NYC Coalition Against Hunger Annual Flagship Event."

At 5 p.m. Tuesday the NYC Quadrennial Advisory Board will hold another community hearing on compensation for elected officials. [Read our recent look at the work ahead for the commission and the question of whether New York elected officials deserve a raise]

On Tuesday at 7 p.m. Public Advocate Tish James will host an African Immigrant "Talk to Tish" Town Hall in the Bronx; and at 8:30 p.m. James will attend the Bayside Hills Civic Association General Meeting in Oakland Gardens.

On Tuesday evening in Brooklyn, school district 15, which includes parts of Sunset Park, Kensington, Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, and Red Hook, schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña will hold a town hall "from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at P.S. 516...Local elected officials including City Councilman Carlos Menchaca, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz and State Sen. Jesse Hamilton are expected to attend and answer questions from the public from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.," according to DNAinfo.

Happy Thanksgiving if you’re celebrating. Watch for our latest articles this week and we'll publish a 'Week Ahead' on Sunday, Nov. 29. 

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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: bmax@gothamgazette.com (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

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by Colin O'Connor, Konstantine Beridze, and Ben Max
@GothamGazette

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The Week Ahead in New York Politics, November 23 Sun, 22 Nov 2015 05:00:00 +0000