In this issue: who’s running for office, who’s raising and spending, and what’s going to happen to former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. That and more coverage and explanation of New York politics for you, Friends.
– Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein
Number of the Week: 15 miles per hour – the speed of the oldest subway trains on the C and J/Z lines. That’s the same speed as when the subway opened in 1904. Those trains date from the 1960’s and break down about three times more frequently than the average.
Jerry Skurnik published his annual list of New York City primary contests. From the eight candidates running against Mayor Bill de Blasio to the Manhattan District Leader races, they’re all here.
Which City Council campaigns are raising and spending the most? Check out the report assembled by Jon Reznick.
Who are the biggest fundraisers?
|3||James Van Bramer||$493,148.00|
Who are the big spenders?
|5||James Van Bramer||$156,214.57|
* – Ferreras-Copeland and Greenfield both announced that they are retiring rather than running for re-election.
Last week, former State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Lower Manhattan) escaped justice when a federal appeals panel overturned his conviction for accepting bribes and money-laundering. They ruled that the jury instructions should have been more specific about the “official acts” that led to the bribery conviction.
New York City Councilman David Greenfield shocked observers on Monday by announcing that he would retire from the Council to lead the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty. The two-term Councilman from Midwood and Borough Park was widely-recognized as the leading Orthodox Jew in New York City elected office. The chair of the Council’s powerful Land Use Committee, Greenfield had been running unopposed for re-election. Instead, he’ll hand over the reigns to his close ally Kalman Yeger, who had been running for Council against Yeger’s cousin-in-law Chaim Deutsch.
Stories We’re Following
The rent might be too damn high for many New Yorkers but not for Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Instead, he’s been able to benefit from the so-called “LLC Loophole” to get rent-free office space in Midtown. SL Green, one of the largest landlords in New York, gave Cuomo’s campaign office space (valued at approximately $2,640 per month) as a contribution. And to avoid violating contribution limits, SL Green cycled through various LLCs they own to make the contributions.
Cuomo announced legislation to close the LLC loophole last year. However, he quickly gave up the effort despite reform advocates and Senate Democrats urging him to keep up the fight.
SL Green, which spent over $300,000 lobbying Albany in 2016, needed the support of the MTA for its newest project: a massive new skyscraper across the street from Grand Central. SL Green founder Stephen Green (brother of former Public Advocate Mark Green) is also a Governor of the Real Estate Board of NY (REBNY), the main lobbying group for landlords. They’ve accumulated numerous victories over the last several years thanks to a close relationship with Gov. Cuomo.
• Cuomo and de Blasio butt heads… over MTA bridge lights?
While the subway continues to decay and LIRR riders suffer as Penn Station tracks undergo repairs, where’s the MTA spending money? Decorative lights for bridges, approximately $40 million so far and as much as $200-$300 million in total. Gov. Cuomo touted the project as an innovative tourist attraction, though his office denies that the MTA will be on the hook for it.
After weeks of silence about the state of mass transit, this provoked Mayor Bill de Blasio to finally criticize Cuomo, drawing a nasty rebuke from Cuomo’s spokesman. Riders are increasingly sick of inaction and rate both politicians poorly on the issue. The Week commentator Ryan Cooper even suggested that Gov. Cuomo’s handling of the crisis could lead to a primary challenge in 2018.
• Why not give a corrupt abuser another shot?
Apparently, that’s what some Queens Democrats are saying. After Corona/East Elmhurst Councilmember Julissa Ferreras-Copeland announced her retirement, her predecessor Hiram Monserrate jumped into the race.
Monserrate has only one small, niggling issue: his criminal record. In December 2008, after winning a State Senate seat but before he was sworn in, Monserrate attacked his then-girlfriend, slashing her face. While awaiting trial, he participated in coup to give power to Senate Republicans as one of the “Four Amigos”, similar in some ways to what the IDC did.
Monserrate was convicted of assault and then months later, federal prosecutors charged him for steering tax dollars to his campaign. He served a nearly two-year sentence. Now, he’s back and running for City Council.
The main opposition to Monserrate comes from Assemblyman Francisco Moya, who has raised significantly more money. However, Mayor Bill de Blasio passed up the opportunity to endorse Moya this week, demurring that he was “in the middle of bocce and lemon ice.”
Note: Michael broke his arm campaigning against Monserrate in 2010 after the Senate expelled him.
• Did Robert Moses Actually Prevent Buses from Going to Jones Beach?
Yes, in fact.
In his masterpiece, The Power Broker, Robert Caro recorded that Robert Moses built lower bridges over the Southern State Parkway on the way to Jones Beach. According to an engineer who worked on the project, Moses wanted lower bridges so that buses couldn’t bring poor (especially black) people to Jones Beach.
A Cornell historian looked at this story and it’s true. There are four bridges with less than an eight-foot clearance and, on average, the bridges along the Southern State Parkway have less than nine feet of room under them. By contrast, while other older parkways (like the Saw Mill, the Hutchinson, and Bronx River Parkways) have lower bridges than modern standards, the average was still 10 feet tall.
Older buses may have been able to go on those roads but, because of Robert Moses, they couldn’t take bus-riders to Jones Beach.
Quote of the Week: “Someone got on with a Styrofoam thing of Chinese food it looked like. There was a lot of rice and other things. Inevitably the rice fell. It was all over the place. I want to avoid things like that.” – New MTA Chairman Joe Lhota, suggesting that banning food on the subway could prevent delays.