Between the “summer of hell” for commuters, Cuomo’s Presidential aspirations, and everything else, there’s quite a bit to talk about this week.
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Number of the Week: $5-25 million – Donald Trump’s investment in Brooklyn’s Starrett City, the nation’s largest affordable housing project. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who represents the complex’s thousands of tenants, questioned whether Housing Secretary Ben Carson will act to increase Trump’s profits.
Last week, Politico published a long story about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Presidential hopes and the challenges he faces. We’ve covered this before but David Freedlander’s article adds to the drumbeat. A few tidbits:
- From the center: “Look at his career, look at his work in New York. He is laying out a model for what it means to be a 21st-century Democrat.” – Jonathan Cowan, a former Cuomo advisor and president and founder of the centrist group Third Way.
- From the left: “The worst of the worst. Andrew Cuomo is somehow the only politician in America who still thinks neoliberalism and triangulation work.” – Progressive activist and Bernie Sanders surrogate Nomiki Konst.
- That sums up his challenge, as Politico sees it: he needs to pacify Bernie Sanders supporters and convince them that winning is all that matters, even if that means sacrificing principles.
- Not mentioned: the fate of the subways or the swirl of corruption around New York state. (Both are topics that Cuomo or his allies have been polling voters about recently).
That’s how the tabloids (and even NPR) are describing the chaos of commuting for anyone who travels on the subways or through Penn Station. With Amtrak closing Penn Station tracks for repairs and the subway’s declining on-time performance, 74% of commuters have been late to work and 65% of parents have been late to pick up their kids.
The response from new MTA chair Joe Lhota: just go to work earlier.
But the problems don’t require rocket science or a genius to solve. The MTA is notoriously mismanaged and the problems have been apparent for years (though they have gotten worse recently). What’s really needed, experts agree: leadership and money.
Things that won’t help? The federal Department of Transportation stepping away from the project to fix and rebuild the Hudson tunnels connecting New York and New Jersey. Also not helpful? The MTA sending millions to bail out ski resorts upstate.
Stories We’re Following
If it seems like there’s a lot of talk recently about corruption in Queens politics, you’re right.
In the latest news, Queens City Councilmember Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) is on trial for stealing taxpayer money. He’s still running for re-election, though, with the support of the Queens County Democratic Party.
Could all this negative news be targeted at Rep. Joe Crowley, the county Democratic leader?
- Theory One: His enemies in Congress want to prevent him from advancing. Crowley is talked about as a potential successor to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. If he’s embroiled in scandal in Queens, that’ll make it harder to lead in the House.
- Theory Two: This is about the race for City Council Speaker. As the Queens County leader, Crowley could steer Queens Councilmembers to vote for his chosen candidate. If he’s weakened, he might not be able to negotiate for as much in exchange for that support.
- Theory Three: It’s all about the IDC. Crowley is said to want to challenge Jackson Heights State Senator Jose Peralta. This year, Peralta defected to the Independent Democratic Conference, strengthening their alliance with the Republicans for control of the Senate. In retaliation or perhaps to stop Crowley from threatening Peralta, the IDC is leaking this negative news.
In any event, Joe Crowley is learning something that Sen. Chuck Schumer long-ago discovered: it’s very difficult to control both New York and Washington. Schumer chose Washington and now leads the Senate Democrats. What will Joe Crowley choose?
• Key Witness Against Senate Leader Fired as CEO of Medical Insurance Co.
Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers, a Long Island company and one of the largest medical malpractice insurance firms in the state, fired its CEO, Anthony Bonomo. Bonomo, a major political player in the state, earned fame as the main witness who cooperated with prosecutors to convict former Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos (Nassau County) for accepting bribes. Those bribes included a no-show job for Skelos’ son with PRI.
According to the state Department of Financial Services, Bonomo mismanaged PRI. The firm focused on selling insurance plans, regardless of whether they made money, and then was tarred because of the negative association with Skelos. They lost $100 million over the last two years while Bonomo paid himself a salary of over $3 million.
If PRI had gone bankrupt, the state would have had to pay its remaining claims, with the cost passed on to home, auto, and business insurance customers statewide. In addition, its customers–doctors and hospitals–would quickly need to find new insurance, likely leading to higher medical prices for New Yorkers.
As an interesting footnote to the story, Gov. Andrew Cuomo named Bonamo chair of the New York Racing Association (which oversees off-track-betting) just days after Bonamo donated to Cuomo’s campaign. Now, Gov. Cuomo’s administration forced Bonamo out of his day job. He left the Racing Association in 2015, after the Skelos scandal broke.
They say that when they call investigators on tenants who converted apartments into illegal Airbnb spot, the city Department of Buildings fines the landlord instead. The city insists that landlords are responsible for not stopping the Airbnb conversions. However, landlords say that reporting the conversions to the c
City is faster and more effective than trying to evict the tenants themselves.
Fining landlords doesn’t seem like the best way to make friends with the people whose help the City needs to crack down on Airbnb’d apartments.
Quote of the Week: “It’s not easy to get rid of an agency.” – Citizens’ Union President Dick Dadey on the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Appointment, which no longer has any power but still employs 17 people.