Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics




Cuomo, Legislative Majorities Reach Deal on 'History-Making' Climate Bill

Cuomo climate

(photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)

The state Senate, Assembly, and Governor Cuomo have reached an agreement on a version of the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA), setting the stage for passage of a bill to significantly reduce New York’s greenhouse gas emissions and transition the state toward a green economy. The bill has previously passed three times in the Democratic-led Assembly, but stalled in the Senate, which was controlled by Republicans for virtually all of the past several decades until this year.

As support for the CCPA mounted in recent weeks, Cuomo had questioned the bill, criticized its supporters as "playing politics" with important policy matters, and explained that key differences on the bill related to timelines and goals around moving to renewable energy, as well as how and where new state environmental funding would be allocated.

Compromise was reached over the weekend as the three parties negotiated a host of issues, and came to a number of agreements, just ahead of the scheduled end of the Albany legislative session on Wednesday.

The agreed-upon bill sets ambitious standards to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, including transitioning to 70 percent renewable energy by 2030 and 85 percent emissions reductions by 2050. Between 35 and 40 percent of the money allocated by the bill’s transition requirements will be invested in communities most vulnerable to climate change. The bill will also create provisions for wage and labor standards for state-supported “green jobs” or those that improve sustainability.

“I believe we have an agreement. I believe it's going to pass,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said on WAMC radio’s The Roundtable on Monday morning. After repeatedly calling the bill both too ambitious and not ambitious enough, and dismissing advocates and elected officials pushing for it as promising too much too quickly because they wanted to score political points, Cuomo indicated at the end of last week that he was hopeful to reach a deal on a climate bill. The governor has also repeatedly cited his own version of a “New York Green New Deal,” with targets for reductions in emissions and transitions to renewables.

“We all knew we had to make some compromise to get a three way agreement, but we’ve done a lot of good stuff in this bill. We’re going to see New York lead the world,” Assemblymember Barbara Lifton said at a Monday press conference hosted by legislators and the broad NY Renews coalition that has been organizing behind the bill. Lifton was an early supporter of the CCPA when it was first passed in 2016.

In recent weeks NY Renews had helped secure majority sponsorship of the CCPA in both houses and rolled out high-profile endorsements of the bill from much of the New York congressional delegation, including both Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

A key area of compromise was reached around the mandated investments in hard-hit and vulnerable communities, areas of the state in need of “environmental justice.”

“Climate change especially heightens the vulnerability of disadvantaged communities, which bear environmental and socioeconomic burdens as well as legacies of racial and ethnic discrimination,” the proposed bill reads. “Actions undertaken by New York state to mitigate greenhouse gas should prioritize the safety and health of disadvantaged communities.”

Cuomo had maintained that his lack of support for the CCPA stemmed from “a question of the distribution of funding.”

“Taxpayers' money is taxpayers' money and if it's taxpayers' money for an environmental purpose, I want to make sure it's going to an environmental purpose,” Cuomo said on WAMC Monday. “This transformation to the new green economy is very expensive and we don't have the luxury of using funding for political purposes.”

Monday’s press conference hosted by NY Renews was celebratory, even if some advocates were slightly disappointed by the compromise and the governor’s claims that legislators backing the CCPA were “playing politics.”

“This is not just a moment for New York but has implications for the world,” climate equity campaign strategist Adrien Salazar said.

Because of its investment in disadvantaged communities, the CCPA is a widely intersectional bill, Senator Jessica Ramos of Queens said at the press conference.

“The CCPA is a huge, history-making piece of legislation, but it can only be the start,” Ramos said.

“While DC sleeps through a crisis, NY steps up,” Long Island Senator Todd Kaminsky tweeted Monday. Kaminsky serves as the chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee and lead sponsor of the bill.

The bill is expected to be voted on in both legislative houses on Wednesday, the final scheduled day of the session.

[READ: Pushed on Climate Legislation, Cuomo Tries to Set Himself Apart]

by Noah Berman, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

End of Albany Session, Primary Election Crunch Time, & More: The Week Ahead in New York Politics, June 17

New York City Hall

New York City Hall

What to watch for this week in New York politics:

All eyes are on Albany as the week begins and there are just three scheduled days of this year's legislative session left - Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday - with a number of issues on the table for potential deals, from legalization of adult-use marijuana to driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants, sweeping environmental legislation to changes to the state's sexual harassment laws, and much more. Will there be a "big ugly" voted through in the wee hours as Wednesday turns to Thursday? Stay tuned...

There's also a good bit of action at the City Council this week, including several interesting hearings - see the rundown below. Those hearings come just after a city budget deal was announced Friday by Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. The $92.8 billion spending plan kicks in July 1, and includes just about everything that advocates and Council members had wanted to add in after the mayor released his executive budget plan earlier this spring. After that announcement, de Blasio headed to New Hampshire on Saturday to campaign for president, just after he had learned he'd officially be among the 20 candidates participating in the first primary debate, which will occur over two nights on June 26 and 27 from Miami.

Speaking of primaries, this Tuesday will mark just one week until primary election day in New York. There are not many elections on the ballot, but the Democratic primary for Queens District Attorney is massively important. Others of note include the Democratic primary for City Council District 45, the second special election in the district within about six weeks, and a number of judicial races.

 And there's more -- see our day-by-day rundown below.

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

The run of the week in detail:

Monday, June 17
The state legislature will be in session on Monday in Albany.

At the City Council on Monday:
-At 10 a.m., the Committee on Fire and Emergency Management will hold a meeting on oversight of private ambulances, including two new bills which would require the New York City Fire Department to submit reports to the Council on its use of private ambulance services.
-Also at 10 a.m., the Committee on Housing and Buildings & the Committee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a joint oversight meeting on “the third party transfer system in modern day New York.”
-At 1 p.m., the Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities and Addiction, the Committee on Criminal Justice, & the Committee on Justice System will hold a joint meeting on recidivism for individuals with mental illness. Additionally, two new pieces of legislation will be discussed: one which requires defense attorneys to be made aware of their client’s mental health diagnosis, and another which would mandate that the Department of Correction inform inmates scheduled for release if they have funds remaining in their accounts, and instruct them on how to request a refund.

At 8:30 a.m. Monday, “Congressman Max Rose and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will be making an announcement on public transit on Staten Island on Monday, June 17 at MTA’s Yukon Bus Depot.” Rose will be joined by MTA New York City Transit President Andy Byford, among others.

At 9:30 a.m. Monday at NYC Sanitation Pier 99, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer will host a press conference to announce the Manhattan Paper Recycling Challenge.

At 10:30 a.m. Monday, schools Chancellor Richard Carranza will appear on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show.

At 10:30 a.m. Monday, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams will speak at the Broome Street Academy Graduation. “The Public Advocate will speak to the graduating seniors and their families on the theme of P.R.I.D.E. (Professionalism, Resilience, Investment, Dignity and Empathy).” At 5:45 p.m., Williams will attend a rally and press conference on the Central Park Five Case. “Public Advocate Williams will join Justice League NYC to put pressure on Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance to investigate Linda Fairstein's past cases and remove Elizabeth Lederer from her post in light of their conduct in the Central Park Five case.”

At 1 p.m. on Monday, the City Planning Commission will hold a review session.

At 5:30 p.m. Monday, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will host a Borough Board meeting.

At 6 p.m. the New York City Council will host a Pride Celebration at The Joyce Theater. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson will deliver remarks.

At 6 p.m. on Monday, the New York City Commission no Gender Equity will host its Brooklyn Gender Equity Summit. “Summit participants [will] join small group discussions to help CGE identify ways to involve men and youth in the fight to advance gender equity; ensure greater gender diversity at all levels of public service; and prevent, reduce, eliminate gender based violence in all communities.”

Also at 6 p.m. Monday, candidates running in the Democratic primary for Queens District Attorney will participate in a candidate forum at the Jacob Riis Settlement in Queensbridge. The forum is sponsored by organizations including 696 Queensbridge, CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities, Justice 4 All Coalition, Legal Aid Society, Urban Upbound, VOCAL-NY; and will be moderated by Bishop Mitchell Taylor of Urban Upbound and Jarrett Murphy, Executive Editor of City Limits.

Mayor de Blasio will appear in his usual Monday evening segment on NY1’s Inside City Hall at 7 and 11 p.m.

Tuesday, June 18
Tuesday will mark just one week until the June 25 primary elections, including the Democratic primaries for Queens District Attorney and City Council District 45, among others. Tuesday also marks the last day to postmark an application for an absentee ballot.

The state legislature will be in session on Tuesday in Albany.

At the City Council on Tuesday: At 10 a.m., the Committee on Health will hold a meeting to discuss 12 new bills and three resolutions, all of which broadly concern animal welfare. Among the most major are bills establishing a Department of Animal Welfare, requiring the NYPD to publish semi-annual reports on complaints and investigation of animal cruelty, and increasing fine and civil penalties for persons engaging in animal abuse, as well as a resoltuion providing a tax credit for taxpayers who adopt household pets from animal shelters (corresponds with A.286 in the state legislature).

At 9 a.m. on Tuesday, the New York City Bar will host a conversation with U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney to “discuss her work in Congress on many issues important to New Yorkers.”

At 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center, the New York City Rent Guidelines Board will hold a public hearing.

At 6 p.m., the 2019 Charter Revision Commission will hold a public meeting. “The Commission will continue to consider proposals for revisions to the New York City Charter for presentation to the voters of the November 5, 2019 election, and such other matters as may be necessary.”

At 6 p.m. on Tuesday, the New York City Commission on Gender Equity will host its Queens Gender Equity Summit. “Summit participants [will] join small group discussions to help CGE identify ways to involve men and youth in the fight to advance gender equity; ensure greater gender diversity at all levels of public service; and prevent, reduce, eliminate gender based violence in all communities.”

Also at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, City Comptroller Scott Stringer will host a celebration of the history and culture of the Russian-speaking community. The event will honor Sanobar Babakhanova, President of the Uzbek American Association; Emanuil Kalendarev, President of the Rego Park Seniors Club; and Irina Roizin, Executive Director of the Brighton Ballet Theater.

Wednesday, June 19
The state legislature will be in session on Wednesday in Albany.

At 9 a.m. on Wednesday, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, together with the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and several New York City agencies, will host a Hell’s Kitchen small business roundtable.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday at the City Council, the Committee on Youth Services & the Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities and Addiction will hold a joint oversight hearing on mental health services for LGBTQ+ youth.

Also at 10 a.m. Wednesday, the City Planning Commission will hold a public meeting.

At 5 p.m. Wednesday, this week’s Max & Murphy show will air on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or, and feature the latest from the end-of-session in Albany and, with just six days before the vote, analysis of the Queens District Attorney Democratic primary, featuring journalists Emma Whitford and David Brand of the Queens Daily Eagle.

At 5 p.m Wednesday in Nautilus playground, Council Member Mark Treyger, NYC Parks, and Alvin Ailey Extension will host a Juneteenth celebration “commemorating the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans throughout the former Confederacy of the southern United States.”

At 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in Queens Borough Hall, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and City Council Members Daniel Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer will host a Pride Month celebration.

Also at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli will host a Caribbean Heritage celebration event at the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza.

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

Also at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, the Manhattan Institute will host a discussion with political commentator George Will to “hear Will present a strategy for renewing the nation’s core ideals in our present political and cultural context.”

Thursday, June 20
At the City Council on Thursday:
-At 9:30 a.m., the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will hold a meeting.
-At 10 a.m., the Committee on Civil Service and Labor will hold a meeting to discuss several bills and resolutions, including three new bills designed to expand the prevailing wage law for building service employees at city development projects, prevent employers from requiring freelance workers to sign uncompensated non-compete agreements, and modify the way that workers’ compensation data is reported.
-At 1 p.m., the Committee on Contracts will meet to discuss four new bills concerning Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs). The bills proposed would add Native Americans to the definition of “minority group,” require the Comptroller to conduct annual M/WBE-specific audits, require City contractors to hire a consultant for every M/WBE contract over $10 million, and require the chief procurement officer to more frequently update M/WBE operational protocols.
-Also at 1p.m., the Committee on Governmental Operations will meet to discuss three new bills. One bill prohibits candidates who have been convicted of corruption- and fraud-related felonies from receiving public matching funds; another reduces the per-contributor amount required for the public funding threshold for eligibility from $10 to $5; and the third amends the definition of “business dealings with the city” to include uncertified applications under ULURP and uncertified applications for zoning text amendments.
-Also at 1 p.m., the Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses will meet.

At 8:30 a.m. on Thursday in the Manhattan Borough President’s Office, there will be a meeting of the Borough Board.

At 9 a.m. on Thursday, the New York City Board of Correction will hold a CAPA hearing regarding proposed rules on the prevention, reporting, and investigation of injuries, where members of the public will have the opportunity to make oral comments.

At 5 p.m. Thursday at the Oberia D. Dempsey Multi Service Center, the New York City Rent Guidelines Board will hold a public hearing.

At 6 p.m. Thursday at the Abron Arts Center, the Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board will host a panel on “the need for strong policy inclusion and infrastructure concerning NYC’s State of solid waste management within New York City’s development of Green New Deal policy.” Panelists will include Antonio Reynoso, City Council Member; Robert Hockett, Professor of Law at Cornell University and Co-Author of "The Way Forward;” Ron Gonen, Co-Founder and CEO of Closed Loop Fund; and Jennifer McDonnell, Resource Recovery Program Manager at NYC Environmental Protection.

At 6:45 p.m. Thursday, the New York Young Republican Club will host its general club meeting, featuring City Council Member Joe Borelli and others.

Friday, June 21 and the weekend
Mayor de Blasio may make his weekly appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show at 10 a.m. Friday.

At 6 p.m. Friday, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli will host a Pride Month celebration reception at the Elmo Restaurant and Lounge in Manhattan.

At 7 p.m. on Friday, Council Member Rafael Espinal will host a Bushwick town hall & resource fair.

Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject).

by Joey Fox and Ben Max

Stuck on Marijuana Legalization, Could Lawmakers Offer a Referendum as Cuomo Suggested?

state capitol new york

the state capitol (photo: Mike Groll/Governor's Office)

In an interview at the end of May, Governor Andrew Cuomo made a provocative assertion: he said opponents to recreational marijuana legalization in the state Senate have argued no state in the country has legalized the controversial measure without first putting the question to voters in a ballot referendum. No such referendum has taken place in New York, but Cuomo -- who has pushed for marijuana legalization this year -- indicated on WNYC radio that it was a possibility as legislative efforts to legalize and regulate recreational, adult-use cannabis in the state have stalled.

In a state government with virtually no tradition of holding referenda on policy initiatives, what this means for the embattled marijuana push in the final days of the legislative session is uncertain. Reports indicate that negotiations on legalization among the Democratic majorities in the Senate and Assembly and Cuomo’s office have continued throughout the weekend, with the parties eyeing the scheduled end of the session on Wednesday.

“The opposition Senate position is, there is no state that has passed it without a referendum. It’s never been done just by the Legislature,” Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, told Brian Lehrer on WNYC on May 28. “They think it’s an overreach by the Legislature,” he added.

While it appears true that this narrative has floated around Senate circles fearing the consequences, both political and pragmatic, the assertion itself that no state has legalized recreational marijuana without a referendum, is not (Vermont legalized marijuana possession through its legislature in 2018, and Illinois did the same for marijuana sales just days after Cuomo’s comments). Nevertheless, the governor appeared to lend credence to the notion that it could be done this way in New York, despite the state’s historically closed attitude toward referenda.

The goal of making recreational marijuana legal in New York became a realistic prospect when Democrats took control of the state Legislature earlier this year, joining a slew of priorities backed by progressives that had been backlogged under the previously Republican-controlled state Senate. It was spurred on by parallel efforts in New Jersey, which have since collapsed. Garden State lawmakers now plan to put the issue directly before voters in a referendum in 2020.

As the end of the legislative session in Albany approaches, the momentum on some reforms has faltered as more centrist, and vulnerable, Democrats from Long Island and north of New York City hedge against political backlash.

“New Jersey was going to legalize it, New Jersey stopped. I think that started to shift the political environment. The senators say on the record that they don’t have the votes to pass it politically,” Cuomo told Lehrer. This is true, but senators, led by Manhattan’s Liz Krueger, the lead sponsor of her chamber’s marijuana legalization bill, have said that it’s in part due to Cuomo’s lack of engagement on the issue. As he did on rent regulations, Cuomo has mostly sat back and said senators are being cowed by political considerations, and he’d sign whatever the legislative majorities could agree on.

The effort may only require support from two additional senators to reach a majority in the 63-seat chamber, the Democrat and Chronicle reported at the beginning of June. While a legislative path may be there, especially with new compromises packed amid a “big ugly” end-of-session omnibus package, Cuomo did indicate another potential path.

In the WNYC interview, after Cuomo pointed out the national referendum trend, he was asked whether a referendum approach could work in New York. The governor responded, “Yes, the short answer is you could do a referendum for a sense of the people where you sketch out the provision and have a referendum, and if it passes then the Legislature could say, ‘We will pass it.’”

The long answer is not as clear. While certain types of measures require ballot referenda, like state constitutional amendments and bond issues, New York does not have the mechanism known as “initiative and referendum” at the state level, which many other so-called “direct democracy” states do (New Jersey doesn’t have it either). Initiative and referendum is a process that allows either the legislature or the public through petitions to put proposals directly onto the ballot to be advanced or blocked by voters.

In some states, referenda are also used to solicit public opinion to provide non-binding guidance (and political cover) to legislators. This may be more along the lines of what the governor was describing in his comments on WNYC.

New York does not have the infrastructure or political tradition of conducting either type of referendum, according to Gerald Benjamin, an expert on New York State government and director of the Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz.

“It’s just a matter of fact that we don’t have the institutional design that supports decision-making by referendum in state government on policy,” Benjamin told Gotham Gazette.

The governor’s office has not returned a request for comment to provide more information about Cuomo’s assertion or thinking on the matter.

At the state level, referenda are used in a narrow set of matters that invoke the self-determination of the people, when the form and structure of the government is at stake and lawmakers’ interests pose a conflict to changing them. New York has a lengthy and politically exhausting legislative process for constitutional amendments that culminates in a referendum after passage in consecutive legislative sessions.

The question of whether to hold a constitutional convention to amend the state’s foundational document is also mandated by law to be placed on the ballot every 20 years. And any bond issue requiring borrowing on the “full faith and credit” of the state is supposed to be approved by voters in a referendum (though much borrowing, like by public authorities, is not), according to Benjamin.

Calling for a referendum can also be a political tool for lawmakers to diffuse responsibility on contentious issues, like recreational marijuana.

“We have at least some body of law that says the representative bodies and the elected representatives of the state government should make these decisions, not try to essentially diminish their accountability by turning to the public on matters that are controversial,” Benjamin said.

Other practical considerations also complicate the equation. There is a difference between the concept of putting a question of importance directly to voters and the pragmatic demands of getting a meaningful response.

In the world of referendum politics there are state rules about qualifying a ballot proposal, and a number of considerations can change the meaning of the question to voters. On a complex topic where the merits are also the subject of current debate, the language of a marijuana question is significant.

Stakeholders are still weighing the particulars of what legalizing adult-use cannabis would mean, and the outcome of that discussion could impact how a potential referendum is framed. Debates are far from settled on questions like whether criminal records for marijuana offenses should be sealed or completely expunged, the legally permissible quantities, and what the state should do with the revenue generated from licenses and taxes.

Outside the issue-specific questions are more technical ones that would have to be answered: will the referendum be written in plain language that is easily understood; how much of the issue will make it onto the ballot; and how will it be explained to voters?

“It’s an easy thing to say, ‘Well, let’s ask the public,’” said Benjamin, and another thing to do it. “We’re not set up to do it, we don’t have the rules and regulations and process. Would we just commission a Siena poll?”

Still, some lawmakers are pushing for that approach to legalizing recreational marijuana, and the governor’s comments may give them traction. Especially for state Senate Democrats, who were elected to the majority last November by flipping swing districts and unseating party members who shared power with Republicans, the political ramifications of supporting marijuana legalization in conservative-leaning or recently Republican-led districts could be treacherous.

“I do believe that it is true that certain members may have said we should do this through referendum because it’s a way of saying we should let the public vote on this,” a spokesperson for Senator Krueger told Gotham Gazette in an interview.

Some senators seem to be in favor of the most progressive elements of the marijuana debate but fall short of supporting it through the legislative process. State Senator Monica Martinez, a first-term Long Island Democrat representing a swing district, has said she would not support Krueger’s bill but a spokesperson told Gotham Gazette she is in favor of decriminalizing marijuana and of expunging the records of people with prior offenses. (Expungement is considered a stronger stance than sealing because it means records are destroyed completely rather than sealed but still accessible by police.)

“Senator Martinez does support the legalization of Marijuana through a statewide referendum,” wrote a spokesperson for the senator in an email.

According to a Siena College poll conducted in April, 52 percent of registered voters statewide supported legalization while 42 percent were opposed at the time. The math was flipped in the suburbs, where several of the Democratic state senators who don’t support the legislation live: 44 percent support the proposal and 49 percent oppose it. A more recent Siena poll conducted in the first week of June found those numbers had balanced out, with support both statewide and in the suburbs at 55 percent. (Earlier this year the Democratic county executives of both Suffolk and Nassau on Long Island said their counties would opt out of allowing marijuana sales if the governor’s bill, which includes opt-outs for localities, was passed.)

The marijuana bill in the state Assembly, sponsored by Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Buffalo Democrat, appears to have stronger support in the majority conference, where the partisan balance isn’t as delicate.

New Yorkers have not always been warm to the referendum mechanism in the past. At the turn of the 20th century, the Progressive Movement in the state was concerned with changing the institutions of government, in part, to mitigate the power of political parties. While New Yorkers adopted a number of proposals like electing party officials and statewide party nominees (at times, through constitutional convention referenda), they spurned the idea of initiative and referendum, according to Benjamin.

“Historically, referendum is regarded as essentially the ducking of responsibility by the representative government elected to make decisions,” he told Gotham Gazette.

Still, the idea of going directly to the people appears to be attractive as the new cohort of state senators that swept into office this year grapple with the potential loss of a signature progressive campaign promise.

“I think that’s the problem here, is the political reality that you don’t have the votes in the Senate,” Cuomo told Lehrer.

Later he added, “Everything else is smoke.”

by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette      

Read more by this writer.

Powerful Head of Building Workers Union Takes on Critics, Explains Positions

gov cuomo 32bj

Hector Figueroa (photo: Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

Among powerful labor union leaders, transparency in political decision-making processes can be rare. But Hector Figueroa, president of the Service Employees International Union, Local 32BJ (SEIU 32BJ), has proved an exception, at least to a significant new degree. And he’s using a now time-honored tool for public sharing: Twitter.

32BJ is the largest property services union in the country, and as its head Figueroa is a prominent political player nationally, and especially in New York, where most 32BJ members work and vote.

Through his Twitter handle @figue32BJ, Figueroa often seeks to explain the decisions his union makes and how it makes them, with the expected focus on how political choices, like candidate and policy endorsements, benefit its members -- a practice he recently took to a new degree around several topics: 32BJ’s support of the ultimately failed plan to bring a sprawling Amazon campus to Queens, its approach to rent regulations being decided in Albany, its endorsement in the contentious Queens District Attorney race, and its support for the Green New Deal.

Though he’s often active on the platform, Figueroa was especially engaged in Twitter conversation recently as he took on critics, praised allies, and outlined key aspects of 32BJ’s strategies.

“As a labor leader, I see it as my responsibility to demystify the union movement and be as accessible to members and the larger community as I can,” Figueroa said in a statement to Gotham Gazette, when asked about his recent activity and broader approach to public discussion. “Social media offers us a very effective way to communicate with a broader audience and build our collective power.”

With regard to rent reform, the union has sent representatives to testify against certain more tenant-friendly bills being debated in Albany, and made public its positions against related measures. A suite of rent regulation reforms, include those opposed by 32BJ, are supported by many grassroots progressive movements and a version of certain updates to the laws appear headed toward passage in the coming days.

Using Twitter, Figueroa clarified the union’s complicated position on the broader issue.

“We want to make sure reform is done well. Somewhere between what tenant advocates say & landlords say is where what works is,” Figueroa wrote on Twitter, facing criticism from a tenant activist. “We don’t know yet what it looks like & will follow this as closely as we can. So far only landlords have talked about workers.” Figeuroa noted that 32BJ members have an important interest in a thriving real estate industry and in apartment building owners investing in their buildings, while members are also concerned about affordable housing and strong tenant protections.

Like on rent regulations -- the most contentious issue being debated in Albany ahead of the June 15 expiration of the current rent laws -- and a host of other issues, Figueroa has made clear that his union’s positions are based on what is in the best interests of the majority of its members.

“We believe in and need rent control and affordable housing but 40k of us work in apartment buildings and do not want our members to lack the resources to upkeep and fix apartments or lose the ability to bargain increases on wages and benefits. We can do both is what we advocate,” Figueroa wrote on Twitter, responding to a critic of the union’s position. “Our residential members want solutions between what landlords & advocates want that meet their needs as workers (good jobs) & as tenants (affordable rents).”

32BJ has more than 163,000 national members, including over 80,000 in New York alone, according to the union’s website. The union consists of members who work across the field of property services, and include doormen, security officers, maintenance workers and engineers.

“We push for bills or weigh in as needed on issues that impact the work our members do. Sometimes that may be different from what advocates want,” Figueroa wrote on Twitter.

Often, those critical of the union forget that the union must support causes that benefit the majority of the union’s members, Figueroa wrote.

“I understand frustrations of activists when building trades don’t support GND, health care workers don’t want transparency on hospital bills, public unions caution about health care for all, building workers question aspects of rent control. Union politics are complicated,” Figueroa wrote on Twitter. Figueroa called for a better way of wrestling with complicated issues than “twitter or public call outs. We need a political way for the left & labor to talk,” he wrote.

On the Green New Deal, Figueroa has supported the federal push by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others, but 32BJ has not gotten behind any of the climate bills being debated or passed in New York.

Responding to a critic who challenged the union’s lack of support for city legislation to institute new regulations on building emissions, Figueroa wrote: “We didn’t oppose the bill. If we had it wouldn’t have passed. As the bill moved we all were concerned about metrics & implementation, offered alternatives. We are, after all, building workers.”

32BJ often backs progressive causes, and was instrumental in the campaign to pass a $15 minimum wage program in New York, among various other recent victories for workers. 32BJ is also a leading member of Fair Elections NY, a coalition for election and campaign finance reform in the state.

But Figeuroa and the union have been clear that they will break from progressive activists.

And 32BJ has also broken with the Democratic establishment, endorsing upstart progressive candidate Alessandra Biaggi in her ultimately winning 2018 campaign against then-Senator Jeff Klein, a powerful and controversial figure who had led the rogue Independent Democratic Conference.

The endorsement followed efforts by Cuomo to reunite the IDC with the rest of the party, where all the elected officials involved pledged not to support primaries against each other. 32BJ’s push for Biaggi, who has been critical of Cuomo, may have hurt what has largely been a very close relationship between the union and the governor.

Cuomo and Figueroa were aligned on Amazon’s move to open a campus in Queens, but as that deal fell apart and 32BJ continued to push campaign finance reform in Albany, the governor repeatedly targeted the union publicly, in a series of moves that seemed to befuddle 32BJ leadership and many watchers of state politics.

On Amazon, Figeuroa was outspoken in supporting the deal, which promised jobs for 32BJ members. Figueroa again took to Twitter to clarify the union’s position and fend off critics.

He challenged “the left” for not considering the interests of unionized construction and service workers, and expressed support for the notion, espoused by Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio, that bringing Amazon to New York could help the push to unionize its factories and warehouses.

“Building HQ2 in NY is better for working families than not building it. In NYC it will create good union construction & service jobs & other family sustaining jobs. Labor has a better shot here than elsewhere at unionizing & improving conditions in Amazon warehouses & tech jobs,” Figeuroa wrote. After the deal fell apart, he wrote a scathing op-ed in the Daily News taking on those who had helped push Amazon away.

A break with grassroots liberal activists is also currently evident in the union’s support of Queens Borough President Melinda Katz for Queens District Attorney. Katz, seen as the “establishment” candidate, has amassed many endorsements from major unions and elected officials.

“It is wrong to say that unions “taking risk” means supporting insurgent candidates,” Figueroa wrote on Twitter. Many activist groups and politicians further to the left are backing public defender Tiffany Caban for Queens DA.

Figuera noted that Katz had the support of the progressive Working Families Party for years, fighting back against the notion that she is a part of the “establishment.”

“It may fit some folks narrative to depict her as the establishment in order to draw support for an insurgent candidate but our politically active members & officers know her well. We don’t erase history out of convenience or fashion,” Figuera wrote on Twitter.

Figueroa clarified that the process of winning the endorsement of the union was not solely up to the union’s elected leadership. Offering some transparency into the endorsement process, he said that leaders and activists among Queens-based members of the union screened and ranked candidates for DA, followed by a recommendation of one candidate to the elected executive board and ultimately a vote by the board.

Twenty thousand of the union’s members live in Queens, he said, in a wide variety of neighborhoods and representing many demographics.

Figueroa noted that the union can improve on its member screening process, but said Katz’s history of working together with the union is what won her the endorsement.

“We think she will be able to do it, to reform the DA office in the progressive way we need and manage its enormous staff,” Figueroa wrote on Twitter of the union’s support for Katz and shunning a potential endorsement of Caban.

Figueroa seems to feed off the energy off those who critique him, sometimes challenging them or calling out “the left” himself.

“We have made the lives of 175k service workers better & won raises, paid sick days & paid leave for millions more not in unions across 11 states & DC. Those are our interests. Call us out,” Figueroa wrote on Twitter, responding to criticism that he supports progressive ideas unless they adversely affect his union.

“We know service workers are often invisible to employers & powerful people but to learn they can be invisible to the left too is something new,” Figueroa tweeted.

by Noah Berman, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Max & Murphy Podcast: Dissecting Dynamics in Albany

red room meeting gov ac

(photo: Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

June 12, 2019 - Max & Murphy Podcast:Dissecting Dynamics in Albany, with Casey Seiler

casey seiler albany times unionCasey Seiler, managing editor of the Albany Times Union, joined the show to discuss the end of the legislative session in Albany, including the historic deal reach on rent regulations, dynamics between Governor Cuomo and the Legislature, and whether deals will be reached on big-ticket items like driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants and adult-use marijuana legalization.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max & Murphy," and listen to Max & Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Pushed on Climate Legislation, Cuomo Tries to Set Himself Apart

gov cuomo us climate brown

Cuomo, middle, with Jerry Brown, left, & John Kerry (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo doubled down on his plan to fight climate change and his opposition to the  Climate and Community Protection Act on Friday amid increased pressure to pass the legislation.

The bill ­– which intends to move the state’s economy to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, invest clean energy funds in disadvantaged communities, and provide higher wages for green jobs – has significant support in both houses of the Legislature, but Cuomo has said that it is both too ambitious and doesn’t accomplish enough.

The CCPA “actually doesn’t do, in my opinion, any of the main goals or initiatives,” Cuomo said in an interview with WAMC radio on Friday.

For the second time last week, he strongly downplayed the CCPA as smart policy. A coalition of advocacy groups, unions, and elected officials at various levels of government has been intensifying its push for the bill as the June 19 legislative session end date inches closer. On Tuesday in Albany, an estimated 250 legislators and activists will rally for passage of the CCPA, according to a media advisory from the NY Renews coalition.

Casting aside the CCPA, Cuomo last week touted his own environment and green economy plan as nation-leading, and specifically argued it is stronger than California’s.

“I believe we’ll pass the bill, or we could pass the bill,” Cuomo said on WAMC. “But our climate change agenda is the most aggressive in the country and it has nothing to do with the bill that’s pending.”

The CCPA has majority sponsorship in both Democrat-controlled house of the Legislature, but it’s unclear where it stands for the two majorities as end-of-session negotiations intensify on a range of issues and bills. Earlier last week, Cuomo told WNYC radio that the CCPA and push behind it – which recently added endorsements from most members of Congress who represent New York City as well as both U.S. Senators from New York – is “political,” explaining his belief that its supporters are over-promising the kind of speed at which New York’s entire economy can go green.

“I believe this is the most pressing issue of our time but I don’t want to play politics with it,” Cuomo said on The Brian Lehrer Show on June 4. “I know the politics is we can do everything by tomorrow. I’ve never done that,” Cuomo said.

In January, the governor unveiled his solution, which he’s called the New York Green New Deal, though many activists have taken issue with his branding. CCPA supporters call that legislation, and its stronger socioeconomic justice elements, the true New York Green New Deal, while supporters of the even more aggressive Off Fossil Fuels Act say that’s actually the real deal.

Daniela Lapidous, a coalition organizer for NY Renews, the coalition aggressively pushing the CCPA, said that when it comes to transitions to renewable energy, the CCPA is more aggressive than California’s climate change policies, but not Cuomo’s solution.

Cuomo’s plan aims for New York to have 70 percent of electricity produced by renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent clean electricity by 2040. Comparatively, California’s climate change policy aims for 50 percent of electricity consumed from renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent clean electricity by 2045.

The CCPA would have an economy-wide shift to renewable energy and would put New York at 100 percent renewable by 2050.

California has long been considered a leader on climate change policy in the U.S. In 2015, Governor Jerry Brown announced his plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, at the time the most aggressive benchmark enacted by any state government, according to a California news release.

Since then, California has continued to implement policies working to transform the state’s environment, climate change, and green economy goals. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled a sustainability plan on April 29 that aims to create 300,000 green jobs, increase the percentage of zero-emission vehicles in Los Angeles to 80 percent, and source 70 percent of water locally – all by 2035.

Lapidous said a key difference between the CCPA and Cuomo’s proposal is that the governor’s isn’t on the table for this session.

“When Governor Cuomo talks about his proposal, that’s not on the table for the Legislature this year,” Lapidous said. “They’re working on the Climate and Community Protection Act and we want to work with the governor’s office to make the strongest Climate and Community Protection Act possible. But it’s not about two proposals that are competing in the New York Legislature right now. It’s about whether Governor Cuomo is going to help pass the CCPA or block [it].”

Cuomo also falsely said Friday that when he proposed his solution, it was before a Green New Deal was being discussed nationally.

"I proposed a Green New Deal before there was a Green New Deal being discussed nationwide," the governor stated. In fact, the federal Green New Deal was formally proposed as a congressional resolution in early February by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), but it didn’t originate there or then.

It was born out of the global financial crisis in 2006, when some Europeans began calling for climate action as a means to democratize the world economic system, according to the Green Party.

Thomas Friedman further popularized the Green New Deal in a 2007 column for the New York Times, where he wrote that this type of legislation would “turn the tide on climate change and end our oil addiction.”

The roots of the Green New Deal in New York are from the 2010 governor’s race, under the platform of the Green Party candidate, Howie Hawkins.

Additionally, Matthew Miles Goodrich, the New York State Director of the Sunrise Movement, a climate change organization that has worked on developing the federal Green New Deal legislation, said Cuomo’s plan isn’t really a Green New Deal.

“The plan that Cuomo has put forward in no way shape or form resembles a Green New Deal and just calling it a Green New Deal does not make it so,” Goodrich said. “In any case, the only climate plan on the table right now is the Climate and Community Protection Act, which does have some of the key components of a Green New Deal.”

These key components address climate change, but also social and economic inequality. Since Cuomo’s plan doesn’t focus justice for and investment in communities that have been on the front lines of environmental pollution, it’s not a Green New Deal, Goodrich added.

Cuomo admitted as much on WAMC Friday, saying, “The issue and contention is how we distribute environmental funds and if we distribute the funds based on political criteria or solely on the basis of environmental impact.” But Cuomo has also said the CCPA timelines for an overhaul of the entire economy are unrealistic, pointing out vast sectors, like transportation, and challenges facing such a shift.

The governor is working with the Legislature to come up with a compromise that includes elements of his plan and of the CCPA, a spokesperson said. State agencies are already working to make Cuomo’s climate plans reality, the spokesperson added.

Cuomo is also working towards economy-wide carbon neutrality as soon as is practical, the spokesperson said. The governor also said on WAMC that he plans to announce a multi-billion dollar wind turbine program, which he said would be the largest in America. He didn’t specify when that program would be announced or start.

Lawmakers and supporters are unsure whether the CCPA will pass by the end of session, but some say the idea of the legislation dying is deeply troubling. Neither Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie nor Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, both Democrats, has committed to passing the legislation this session, even though the Assembly has passed the CCPA several years in a row (with it having no chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate that lost power this year).

Senator Todd Kaminsky, the lead sponsor of the CCPA in his chamber, recently led a press conference calling for its passage. Three of his colleagues, Senators Robert Jackson, Jessica Ramos, and Julia Salazar, will be among those rallying on Tuesday in the capital, per NY Renews.

“We're really counting on the Legislature to deliver what they promised to do for New Yorkers, which is protect our safety and health, especially in those communities of color and low-income communities,” Lapidous said. “We're really counting on the Legislature there. But if Governor Cuomo were to get in the way, I think it would be really devastating for New York.”

by Caitlyn Rosen, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Rent Regs Deadline; Queens DA Debates; Awaiting Pantaleo Decision; & More: The Week Ahead in New York Politics, June 10

New York City Hall


New York City Hall


What to watch for this week in New York politics:

There are four more days of state legislative session this week, with the rent laws set to expire on Saturday, June 15. The session is scheduled to end on June 19. Rent regulations are at the top of the agenda, but there are a number of issues on the table as the session winds down. [Listen: a new What's The [Data] Point? podcast on rent regulations featuring REBNY's John Banks and Assemblymember Harvey Epstein, a former tenant lawyer and member of the Rent Guidelines Board]

Tuesday will mark just two weeks until the Democratic primary for Queens District Attorney, as well as other elections on the ballot that day, mostly judicial races, but also another special election in City Council District 45. NY1 will air a debate among the seven Queens DA candidates on Tuesday evening at 7 p.m., and there are other debates and forums also scheduled this week. [Read: Should a Top Prosecutor Have Prior Prosecutorial Experience? 'Qualifications' Debate Rages in Queens DA Race]

Mayor Bill de Blasio is returning to New York City on Monday after a weekend campaigning for president in Iowa. De Blasio missed both the Brooklyn Pride Parade and Puerto Rican Day Parade this weekend, each for the first time in at least a decade, according to his office. De Blasio received zero first or second place votes in a new Iowa Democratic primary poll released this weekend, but he expressed resolve when asked about it, according to NY1’s Gloria Pazmino.

It’s crunch time for city budget negotiations between de Blasio and the City Council, with a July 1 deadline looming. There are several areas of negotiation at play, perhaps most notably so-called pay parity for early childhood educators.

It’s also a busy week at the Council, with a variety of noteworthy hearings, and a full Council meeting at which new bills are introduced and bills already passed through committee and voted on by the full Council. The Bay Street rezoning on Staten Island’s north shore is expected to pass the Council this week, among other items, and Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s bill to mandate a “master plan for city streets” with significantly expanded bus and bike lanes, among other features, will have its first hearing.

We’re awaiting the results of the NYPD administrative trial of Officer Daniel Pantaleo, whose chokehold led to Eric Garner’s death in 2014. It’s unclear when a decision will be handed down by the presiding NYPD judge and when that decision will be made public.

We’re also awaiting word on a permanent chair and CEO for NYCHA, the New York City Housing Authority, but the extended deadline for Mayor de Blasio and federal monitor Bart Schwartz to agree on a new leader for the city’s public housing authority isn’t until the end of June. [Read: Interim NYCHA CEO Kathryn Garcia on the Federal Monitor & Future of Public Housing in New York]

As always, there are many events to be aware of -- see our day-by-day rundown below.

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

The run of the week in detail:

Mayor de Blasio will meet with Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic Mayor David Collado on Monday in New York City. In the evening, de Blasio will appear on NY1's Inside City Hall with host Errol Louis, in the 7 and 11 p.m. hours.

At 10:15 a.m. Monday in Rochester, Governor Cuomo will make an announcement at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will be among those in attendance. At 1:45 p.m., Hochul will participate in a press conference with state commissioners and local ffficials at the Rochester Convention Center.

Also at 10:15 a.m. Monday at City Hall, “NYPD officers who served in the Department’s Cadet Corps program will join Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Council Members Cornegy, Moya, Powers and Brannan for a press conference calling on Mayor de Blasio and Council Speaker Johnson to support a state law correcting a City mistake that denied them pension credit for their cadet service. The NYPD Cadet Corps, a police apprenticeship program, was created as a career pathway for NYC-resident college students to begin an NYPD career while still in college. However, as a result of the City’s misinterpretation of the law, roughly 300 NYPD officers who served as cadets prior to 2012, the majority of which come from the diverse communities they serve, have been stuck with substantially diminished pension benefits.”

At noon Monday at Tweed Courthouse, city Department of Education Chancellor Richard Carranza will make an announcement.

At noon Monday, City Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo will join the family of the late rapper Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace to co-name a street in Brooklyn in his honor.

At 1 p.m. Monday at City Hall, “Council Member Antonio Reynoso, safe streets advocates, and bicyclists will call for the driver to be held accountable and for the City to pilot the installation of right-of-way street cameras. This call comes in response to a video that surfaced last week of driver deliberately trying to run over a cyclist near the Hudson River Greenway. Upon the NYPD’s arrival at the scene, the driver was not issued a ticket nor did they receive any further disciplinary action. The episode followed an un-filmed altercation between the driver and cyclist. Witnesses claim that the driver’s reckless driving sparked the altercation, but he has yet to be held accountable. Had right-of-way cameras been present at the intersection where this incident occurred, it would be possible to verify what sparked this incident and who was at fault. The installation of right-of-way cameras would bring a measure of transparency to our roadways and help ensure that reckless, dangerous drivers are held accountable for their actions.”

At 3 p.m. Monday outside City Hall, the de Blasio administration, City Council Member Andy King, The Power & Music Awards Committee, and The Council’s Black, Latino & Asian Caucus will host the 2nd Annual Power & Music Awards 2019. “This year’s theme is ‘African-American Music Power & Music Awards,’ honoring individuals who have influenced society’s music and culture. The 2019 Power & Music Awards honorees include Hip Hop Artist Rakim, Hip Hop Artist Big Daddy Kane, Entertainment Mogul Steve Rifkind, The Late Rick James, The Mary Jane Girls with Val Young, Fashion Stylist June Ambrose, Gospel Artists Bishop Hezekiah Walker, Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club, Entertainment Attorney Londell McMillan, R&B Group Cameo, Creative Director/Choreographer Laurieann Gibson, and Designer April Walker.”

At 5 p.m. Monday in Syracuse, the Business Incubator Association of New York State will hold its annual meeting, featuring State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

At 7 p.m. Monday in Far Rockaway, the Queens for Justice Ad Hoc Committee will host a candidate debate in the Democratic primary for Queens District Attorney.

Tuesday, June 11
Tuesday will mark two weeks until the June 25 primary elections, headlined by the Queens District Attorney Democratic primary, but also including several judicial elections, among others.

The state legislature will be in session on Tuesday in Albany.

At the City Council on Tuesday:
-At 10 a.m., the Committee on Housing and Buildings will meet on six pieces of legislation. The bills, sponsored variously by Council Members Carlina Rivera, Andrew Cohen, and Keith Powers, all concern tenant protection and transparency, including limiting fees charged in a rental real estate transaction, requiring the return of security deposits within 60 days of the end of a lease, and providing tenants the option of paying a security deposit in six equal monthly installments.
-Also at 10 a.m., the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will meet.
-At 10:30 a.m., the Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses will meet.
-At 11 a.m., the Committee on Land Use will meet on the Bay Street rezoning for part of the north shore of Staten Island, among other land use changes, as well as a bill introduced by Council Member Rafael Espinal to develop a comprehensive urban agriculture plan. “This bill would require the Department of City Planning to develop a comprehensive urban agriculture plan that addresses land use policy and other issues to promote the expansion of urban agriculture in the City. The Department would be required to deliver such plan to the Mayor and the Speaker of the Council by July 1, 2019.”

From 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Lehman College will host the Third Annual Summit on [email protected] in New York City (SOL NYC). “The CUNY Mexican Studies Institute Jaime Lucero, the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies (Hunter College- CUNY) will join together in hosting the third Annual Summit on New York City’s Latino communities to examine the challenges and opportunities facing the City’s Latinos, assess policy priorities, and develop an action agenda for today and tomorrow.” In attendance will be City Council Members Ydanis Rodríguez and I. Daneek Miller, perhaps among others.

Beginning at 8:15 a.m. Tuesday and going through much of Wednesday, the NYC Special Education Collaborative will host “Reimagine Education,” a conference that aims “to reimagine education through the lens of equity and inclusion for all students.” Speakers will include Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad; writer and teacher Clint Smith; Columbia University Professor Chris Emdin; Vanderbilt University Professor Donna Ford; and Rutgers University Professor Lauren Leigh Kelly.

At 9 a.m. Tuesday, the New York City Board of Correction will hold a special hearing for public comment on variance requests, as well as a CHS and DOC update and discussion on health care access.

Also at 9 a.m. Tuesday, the New York City Industrial Development Agency will hold a Board of Directors meeting.

At 11:30 a.m. Tuesday in Albany, the NY Renews Coalition will organize a rally in support of the Climate and Community Protection Act. “[H]undreds of activists from across the state will descend on Albany to declare that it is time to pass a strong CCPA. The event comes at a critical time the week before the end of the legislative session...we will rally to turn up the heat on Governor Cuomo as well as key legislators delaying action on this critical climate justice legislation.” The rally will be joined by state Senators Robert Jackson, Jessica Ramos, and Julia Salazar, likely among many others.

At 12 p.m. on Tuesday, the New York Academy of Medicine will host the first annual SOMOS policy conference to “call for an extension of the state’s transformative DSRIP initiative that has begun to revolutionize health delivery in lower income communities statewide. Plenary sessions, panels, and keynotes featuring NYS Budget Director Robert Mujica, OMH Commissioner Dr. Ann Marie T. Sullivan, and OASAS Commissioner Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez and NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene leadership [will] begin mapping a long-term policy agenda to address health care disparities in lower-income, immigrant communities.”

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

At 5 p.m. Tuesday at Hostos Community College, the Rent Guidelines Board will hold a public hearing.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer will hold a public hearing “on the Manhattan component of the Mayor’s borough-based jails plan. The plan is part of the city’s effort to close Rikers Island and replace it with smaller jails in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. The Manhattan proposal, now undergoing the official Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), involves a new 450 ft. tower at 124-125 White St. in Lower Manhattan (the current Manhattan Detention Complex).”

Also at 6 p.m. Tuesday, the New York City Bar will host the Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Distinguished Lecture on Women and the Law. Following an introduction by Justice Ginsburg, Hon. Ann Claire Williams, Judge of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (Ret.), will give a lecture.

At 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, City & State NY will host the 2019 Staten Island Power 100 at the Hilton Garden Inn Staten Island Tea House Garden. Staten Island Borough President James Oddo will give keynote remarks.

Also at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Queens GOP will host its annual spring gala. Guests will include Joann Ariola-Shanks, Queens GOP party chair; Nick Langworthy, incoming New York State Republican Party Chair; and Michael Caputo, former campaign staffer for President Donald Trump.

At 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Spectrum News NY1 will host a live, televised debate in the Democratic primary for Queens District Attorney. All seven candidates for the nomination – Tiffany Cabán, Melinda Katz, Rory Lancman, Greg Lasak, Betty Lugo, Mina Malik, and Jose Nieves – are scheduled to appear. The debate will be moderated by Errol Louis, with questions also coming from Bobby Cuza and Gloria Pazmino.

Also at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, City Council Member Francisco Moya will hold a community town hall with the East Elmhurst Corona Civic Association.

Wednesday, June 12
The state legislature will be in session on Wednesday in Albany.

At the City Council on Wednesday:
-At 10 a.m., the Committee on Aging will meet to follow up on the Unpaid Caregivers Comprehensive Plan.
-At 1 p.m., the Committee on Immigration will meet to conduct oversight on the Mayor’s Office of Immigration Affairs Annual Report.
-Also at 1 p.m., the Committee on Environmental Protection will meet to discuss three bills, two introduced by Council Member Costa Constantinides and one introduced by Council Member Donovan Richards. One bill aims to reduce methane emissions, another proposes the examination, survey, and mapping of all methane leaks in New York City, and the third would mandate the creation of a Department of Sustainability and Climate Change and the repeal of chapter 1, section 20 of the New York City Charter. For more details on the bills, visit the City Council website here.
-Also at 1 p.m., the Committee on Transportation will meet on two bills, one from Council Member Carlos Menchaca establishing that bicyclists “must follow pedestrian control signals when local law, rule or regulation provides that those signals supersede traffic control signals,” and another from Council Speaker Corey Johnson “requiring the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) to issue and implement a master plan for the use of streets, sidewalks, and pedestrian spaces every five years.”
-At 2 p.m., the Committee on Economic Development will take a tour of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The tour is not open to the public.

At 8 a.m. Wednesday, the Westin at Times Square will host the JUST Capital Investment Breakfast; in attendance will be State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

On Wednesday morning, WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show is hosting a debate among candidates for Queens District Attorney. The show airs 10 a.m. to noon weekdays.

At 4 p.m. Wednesday, the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board will hold a public board meeting “to discuss oversight of the NYPD. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions about police-community relations and learn about key Agency updates. Investigators will be available to receive complaints of misconduct.”

At 5 p.m. Wednesday, this week’s Max & Murphy will air on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or, and feature an update on the state legislative session in Albany as well as an extended interview with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

“The next public hearing of the New York City Voter Assistance Advisory Committee (VAAC) will be held on Wednesday, June 12, starting at 5:30 p.m...The hearing will focus on the release of the 2018–2019 Voter Analysis report. This report includes a look at the work NYC Votes has done to engage New Yorkers in the 2018 elections, analysis of voter registration and turnout data throughout New York City, and a recap of how recent legislative changes have impacted New York’s elections.”

At 6 p.m. Wednesday in City Hall, the 2019 New York City Charter Revision Commission will hold a public meeting to “consider proposals for revisions to the New York City Charter for presentation to the voters of the November 5, 2019 election, and such other matters as may be necessary.”

Also at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, City Council Member Helen Rosenthal will host a special town hall on homelessness at the B’Nai Jeshurun Synagogue: “Be part of the conversation about how the Upper West Side community can best support our homeless neighbors. We will hear from advocates for the homeless, people who have experienced homelessness, and NYC residents working in partnership with local shelters.”

Also at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, City Comptroller Scott Stringer will host a Post Eid ul-Fitr celebration at the NYU Global Center for Spiritual Life.

Thursday, June 13
The state legislature will be in session on Thursday in Albany.

At 8 a.m. Thursday at the New York Athletic Club, Crain’s New York Business will host NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill for a discussion of “the latest crime trends, the NYPD response and whether community policing, de-escalation training and other initiatives are working,” with moderators Erik Engquist of Crain’s and Stephanie Pagones of the New York Post asking questions after O’Neill gives remarks.

At 8:30 a.m. Thursday in the Flushing Library, the Center for an Urban Policy will hold a policy forum entitled “Harnessing NYC’s Public Libraries to Support Immigrants & Refugees.” “This forum will examine how the city's libraries can strengthen and expand their already-significant immigrant-focused initiatives and explore whether libraries are well-positioned to play a stepped-up role in other critical areas, such as ensuring an accurate Census count. The event will also discuss how city policymakers can better harness and support the important work New York’s libraries are doing with immigrants and refugees.”

“The New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB) will hold a public meeting on Thursday, June 13, at 10:00 AM.”

At 11 a.m. Thursday, Legal Hand Jamaica will host a housing fair on tenant’s rights. “Essential organizations and government agencies that support tenants by preventing eviction and homelessness, fighting discrimination and displacement, providing affordable housing options, and empowering tenants through supporting Tenants’ Associations will be available for consultation and questions.” Presentations will be given by the Legal Aid Society, the New York City Commission on Human Rights, the City Department of Finance, and others.

At 1:30 p.m. Thursday, the City Council will hold a stated meeting in the Council Chambers at which bills that have been voted through committee are passed by the full Council and new bills are introduced. It will be preceded by the usual pre-Stated press conference hosted by Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

At 5 p.m. Thursday at Saint Francis College, the Rent Guidelines Board will hold a public hearing.

At 5:30 p.m. Thursday, the Queens Daily Eagle, St. John’s University, and the NAACP will host a candidate forum for Queens District Attorney. Candidates invited include Tiffany Cabán, Melinda Katz, Rory Lancman, Greg Lasak, Betty Lugo, Mina Malik, and Jose Nieves.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, the Association for a Better New York will host a discussion and Q&A with Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr., who “will discuss his path to office, experiences in government, and vision for New York City.”

Also at 6 p.m. on Thursday, TransitCenter will host “A Better Bus Network for the Bronx” with MTA NYC Transit President Andy Byford. “The MTA is soon expected to deliver the next installment in its citywide bus design network redesign with a plan for the Bronx, the borough with the highest bus ridership per capita. How did the MTA pursue this major undertaking? What should riders expect when it’s complete? What will success look like?” Also speaking will be Stephanie Burgos-Veras, Senior Organizer at Riders Alliance, and Christof Spieler, VP & Director of Planning at Huitt-Zollars, Senior Lecturer at Rice University, and Board Member at TransitCenter.

Also at 6 p.m. Thursday, City Council Member Ben Kallos, U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney, and Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) President Susan Rosenthal will host a Roosevelt Island Town Hall.

Also at 6 p.m. on Thursday, City Council Member Vanessa Gibson will host the 6th Annual Housing Conference at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, with a keynote address from Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

Friday, June 14 & the weekend
The state legislature will be in session on Friday in Albany.

Mayor de Blasio may make his weekly appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show on Friday at 10 a.m.

At 12:30 p.m. on Friday, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli will attend the New York-New Belfast Business and Investment Conference at Pier A Harbor House.

New York’s rent regulations are set to expire on Saturday June 15.

Have events or topics for us to include in an upcoming Week Ahead in New York Politics? E-mail Gotham Gazette executive editor Ben Max any time: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (please use "For Week Ahead" as email subject). 

by Joey Fox and Ben Max

What's the [Data] Point? 6/15, Crunch Time in Albany as Rent Regulations Expire

whats the data point

What's The [Data] Point? Episode 75 -- 6/15, Crunch Time in Albany as Rent Regulations Expire, with REBNY's John Banks and Assemblymember Harvey Epstein [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]

faceoffRent regulations impacting about 1 million New York City apartments home to 2 million people are set to expire June 15. State lawmakers and Governor Cuomo have been negotiating how far to go in strengthening those laws in tenants' favor and whether to extend regulations beyond where they currently apply, both in terms of geography and a proposal that would effectively regulate rent increases for all apartments outside the traditional rent-regulated stock.

John Banks, president of the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), and Assemblymember Harvey Epstein, a Manhattan Democrat and longtime tenant advocate, joined the show to discuss the future of rent laws in New York.

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

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Upcoming Elections: What's on the June 25 Ballot in New York City

nycmayorsoffice president us

(photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayoral Photo Office)

Though it is a relatively quiet year for elections, there are several just around the corner in New York City, with this year’s party primary day coming up on Tuesday, June 25.

The general election is November 5.

There are a number of judicial elections taking place across the city, among other races.

The marquee election on June 25 is the crowded Democratic primary for Queens District Attorney, a race without an incumbent. The primary is all-but-certain to decide the election given how Democratic Queens is, but the general election field is not clear yet. Only registered Democrats can participate in the Queens DA primary.

In fact, almost all of the primaries taking place June 25 are within the Democratic primary. The only Republican elections are for party positions in the state committee and the county committee.

There’s a second special election for Public Advocate coming up, but there are no primaries after only one candidate has emerged for the Democrats and one for the Republicans, incumbent Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and City Council Member Joseph Borelli, respectively. They will face off in November. Williams won the February special election that gives him the seat for the rest of this year, whereas the November winner will hold the position for 2020 and 2021.

There’s also a second special election, with a Democratic primary coming up June 25, for Williams’ old Brooklyn City Council seat. Farah Louis won last month’s special election, and is being challenged in the party primary by several candidates she just beat out. It’s unclear what the general election might look like in this election. Like Williams’ win, Louis’ win gives her the seat for the rest of the year, but the upcoming special election determines who will hold the position for 2020 and 2021, with the next regularly-scheduled city election cycle taking place in 2021.

Below is the full rundown of the races that will be on the ballot on June 25 and a partial preview of what’s on the ballot in November -- we won’t know the full November ballot for a couple of months.

-Supreme Court primaries elect delegates for judicial conventions (these apply to all Assembly districts; but only some are competitive and shown below)

-Civil Court and Surrogate’s Court elections are directly for candidates for those positions; again, only some are competitive this year

-There are no primaries for the citywide position of Public Advocate: incumbent Jumaane Williams is the Democratic nominee; Republicans plan to nominate City Council Member Joe Borelli of Staten Island.

June 25 Primaries

The Bronx
In the Bronx, there are no competitive primaries for June 25.

-Democratic District Attorney Darcel Clarke  is seeking reelection unopposed at this point.

-For two Supreme Court judgeships the delegate slates are running unopposed.

-For Civil Court, there are:
--two uncontested countywide candidates
--uncontested races in the 1st and 2nd districts: 1st is Wakefield, Williamsbridge, Parkchester, Soundview, Hunts Point, Castle Hill, City Island, and Throggs Neck; 2nd is Riverdale, Kingsbridge, West Bronx, Morrisania, and Mott Haven.

-For 3 Supreme Court delegate slates -- 71st, 72nd, 75th (plus alternates) -- there are contested Democratic primaries. All others are uncontested.

-For Civil Court, the 4th district judgeship (Murray Hill, Kips Bay, Peter Cooper Village, and Stuyvesant Town) is a Democratic primary between Lynne M. Fischman Uniman and E. Grace Park.

-Other Civil Court races are uncompetitive: two Countywide, and the 3rd (Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen) and 9th (Midtown and part of the Upper East Side) districts.

-There is a special election primary in City Council District 45, where new incumbent Council Member Farah Louis, who won the May 14 special election, is being challenged by several candidates: Xamayla Rose, Monique Chandler-Waterman, Anthony Alexis, and Victor Jordan.

-For five 5 Supreme Court delegates slates, there are two competitive Democratic primaries in the 50th and 60th districts. The others are uncontested.

-There is a competitive Democratic primary for Surrogate’s Court judge, where incumbent Margarita Lopez Torres is being challenged by Elena Baron and Meredith R. Jones.

-For Civil Court, there is a Democratic primary for a countywide position between D. Bernadette Neckles and Edward King.

-And there’s a Democratic primary in the 6th Civil Court District among Alice A. Nicholson, Caroline P. Cohen, Chinyelu O. Udoh, and Tehilah H. Berman.

-There are Republican County Party elections for male and female State Committee and County Committee positions.

-There is a competitive primary for Queens District Attorney among Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Gregory L. Lasak, Betty Lugo, City Council Member Rory I. Lancman, Jose L. Nieves, Tiffany Cabán, and Mina Quinto Malik.

-There are five uncontested races for Supreme Court judgeships.

-For Civil Court, there are two countywide judge races that are uncontested and a race for another countywide positions between Lumarie Maldonado-Cruz and Wyatt N. Gibbons.

-And there is an uncontested race for the 5th Civil Court District (Breezy Point, Roxbury, Belle Harbor, Rockaway Park, Seaside, Hammels, Edgemere, and Far Rockaway).

-There are Republican party elections for male and female State Committee members and county committee.

Staten Island
-Democratic District Attorney Michael McMahon is currently running unopposed.

-There are competitive Supreme Court delegate slate elections in the Democratic primaries for the 61st, 62nd, 63rd, and 64th districts. Other districts are uncontested.

-For Civil Court, one countywide race is uncontested, as is the race in the 1st Civil Court District (Elm Park, West Brighton, St. George, Mariners Harbor, Graniteville, Bulls Head, and New Springville).

-There are Democratic party elections for County Committee positions.

-There are Republicans party elections for County Committee positions.

[Voters can see exactly what their June 25 ballot will look like, if they have any elections to vote in, using Who's On The Ballot]

by Andrew Millman, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Ben Max contributed to this story.

Support Grows for Aggressive Climate Legislation Cuomo Calls Unrealistic

nature climate change

(photo: Governor's Office)

As the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA) gains increasing support from state and federal legislators, the state Assembly and Senate will soon decide whether or not to vote on the bill, which now has a majority of sponsors in both houses of the Legislature but not the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The CCPA, described by many as New York’s attempt at a Green New Deal, has three major components. The bill would end reliance on fossil fuels by moving the state’s economy to 100% renewable energy by 2050, invest 40% of clean energy funds in disadvantaged communities, and provide higher wages for environmentally-friendly jobs.

In recent days, the coalition supporting passage of the CCPA, called NYRenews, has announced endorsements from officials including Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and most other members of the New York congressional delegation (Reps. Hakeem Jeffries, Grace Meng, and Max Rose are the only members of the New York City delegation not to endorse the CCPA).

According to Steve Englebright, the lead Assembly sponsor of the CCPA, the bill is “based on the timeline scientists recommend to avoid catastrophe.”

In spite of growing support for the bill, it’s unclear if the two legislative majorities will make it a top priority for end-of-session negotiations -- the session is scheduled to end June 19 -- and Governor Cuomo has not included it in his recently-released top 10 priorities for the state over the next few weeks.

“I believe this is the most pressing issue of our time but I don’t want to play politics with it,” Cuomo said on WNYC radio’s The Brian Lehrer Show on Tuesday. “I know the politics is we can do everything by tomorrow. I’ve never done that,” Cuomo said. The governor repeatedly indicated to Lehrer that he wants to move aggressively to fight climate change but that the CCPA is not a realistic piece of legislation given its requirements to overhaul much of the economy.

Cuomo made headlines, and waves, last month when he said he “does not foresee anything specific for the end of the session” regarding climate change legislation.

The CCPA has passed in the Assembly every year since 2016, but a Republican-controlled Senate did not put the legislation up for a vote. With Democrats now controlling a wide majority in the Senate, hopes have been high that the bill would reach Cuomo’s desk. Legislators appear content to work with the governor to negotiate an agreement on new environmental regulations rather than force his hand. Often in Albany, the more contentious issues that find compromise are combined into a budget or end-of-session omnibus package.

Cuomo has warned of the possible economic impact of the CCPA. “When you talk about this transition for the economy, think about what you are talking about. No carbon emissions, new airplanes, no trains that run on diesel, all electric cars, closing all the power plants. This is a massive transformation,” Cuomo said on WNYC.

Still, the bill’s sponsors, activists, and others are pushing back against his pessimism. According to Englebright, the bill is not attempting to “do everything by tomorrow. 2050 is a time horizon well beyond tomorrow,” he said on Wednesday’s Brian Lehrer Show.

Leaders in both the Senate and the Assembly have indicated support for the CCPA, though they have not assertively pushed it of late. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie indicated the CCPA as one of his priorities in an agenda for the Assembly released at the start of the new session in January, but he has not been forceful about it of late. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins was non-committal on Friday’s Capitol Pressroom radio show, when asked about the status of the CCPA, saying she is “personally committed to doing the best climate change package.”

“We have a working group going on right now to see what we can do before the end of session as it relates to the CCPA. I believe we’re going to have something before we leave,” Stewart-Cousins told Capitol Pressroom host Susan Arbetter.

State Senator Todd Kaminsky, lead sponsor for the CCPA in the Senate, also said the CCPA is a priority, but the Senate is still ironing out some details. Kaminsky said he would like to see the bill include more provisions for energy efficiency and interim goals.

“Heastie has given us the compass direction on this,” Englebright said Wednesday on WNYC, appearing with Kaminsky. “I anticipate that we will pass it again this year. Speaker Heastie is committed because he understands the importance of this for all the people of the state.”

Activists, led by the extensive NY Renews coalition of labor unions and advocacy groups, are pressing hard.

“There's no time to waste on protecting New Yorkers from climate change, creating green jobs, and making sure we do it with racial and economic justice at the center,” said Bill Lipton, director of the New York Working Families Party, in a Wednesday press release from NY Renews touting that the CCPA had achieved a majority of sponsors in both houses.

Kaminsky and Englebright are optimistic about the CCPA”s chances, seeing similarities in the CCPA and Cuomo’s proposed climate regulations as a part of the budget passed in March.

“It has the same framework as the CCPA, so I don’t think we’re all that far apart in terms of where we are as a state decarbonizing our economy,” Kaminsky said.

A difference between the CCPA and Cuomo’s budget proposal lies within the 40% investment of clean energy funds into disadvantaged communities, Englebright said. These communities have often suffered disproportionately from lapses in environmental care, so it is especially important they receive investments in renewable energy, good jobs and training, Kaminsky said.

The deadlines for moving away from fossil fuels are also different, and while Cuomo’s benchmarks are focused on the state’s electricity, the CCPA is focused on the entire state economy. (Some legislators and activists want the more aggressive Off Fossil Fuels Act passed, but there appears little formal discussion of the legislation as the legislative session winds down.)

The CCPA also has the potential to increase economic investment in the state, Englebright said. If implemented it could “unleash the genius of American capitalism and New York innovation,” he said.

Despite Cuomo downplaying the CCPA, with its rising popularity, some, including Kaminsky and Englebright, expressed confidence the bill will be voted on this session.

“We have the votes – what are we waiting for,” Lipton said.

by Noah Berman, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Print Friendly and PDF

Editor's Choice

Gotham Gazette: 3 Issues the Governor Says Will Form Basis of His 2020 Agenda3 Issues the Governor Says Will Form Basis of His 2020 Agenda Gotham Gazette: Charter Revision Commission Puts 20 Proposals Toward November Ballot Charter Revision Commission Puts 20 Proposals Toward November Ballot Gotham Gazette: How De Blasio Fared in Albany This Year How De Blasio Fared in Albany This Year Gotham Gazette: The Max & Murphy Podcast The Max & Murphy Podcast