The MTA needs to shape up, as do misbehaving pols, and Gov. Cuomo, too, if he wants to avoid losing re-election. Those stories and more coverage and explanation of New York politics in this week’s ShakingNewsletter.
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– Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein
Quote of the Week: “There were no gold faucets. When you’re claiming $80,000 in improvements in a 400-square-foot studio, it better look like the Trump hotel.” – Aaron Carr, founder and executive director of Housing Rights Initiative. They are suing a landlord who owns more than 100 building for illegal rent increases.
Andrew Cuomo might be looking forward to running for President in 2020 but it’s looking increasingly likely that he’ll have to brave a challenging re-election campaign first.
Who might run against him?
- Harry Wilson, an investor and the 2010 Republican candidate for Comptroller.
- Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who lost the Governor’s race in 2014.
- Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.
- 2010 Republican candidate Carl Paladino, a noted Trump supporter.
- Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (Nassau County).
- Former State Senator Terry Gipson (Hudson Valley) is already exploring a bid.
- Zephyr Teachout, progressive activist who ran against Cuomo in the 2014 Democratic Primary.
- Tim Wu, Teachout’s 2014 running mate (as candidate for Lieutenant Governor).
- Preet Bharara, the US Attorney fired by Trump.
- Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
- Mayor Bill de Blasio.
- Queens State Senator Michael Gianaris.
What will the MTA do?
- Remove seats from the first and last cars on the L train and the 42nd Street Shuttle so more people can cram in.
- Add cars to the C train (and other trains where platforms have room for more cars) to carry more people.
- Repair the 1,300 train signals with the most signal problems.
- Seal leaks and clean grates to prevent water getting into the subway.
- Sweep tracks more often and ask the NYPD to enforce littering laws to prevent debris from catching fire (which caused the track fire in Harlem a couple weeks ago).
- Install countdown clocks system-wide by the end of the year.
- Create a new emergency operations center.
- Launch a website dashboard to track subway operations, reliability, safety, and other measures.
- Hire 2,700 new employees.
After months of criticism that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s housing plan wouldn’t do enough for low-income New Yorkers, his administration released a new plan. The new proposal would allocate 50,000 affordable apartments to “very low” and “extremely low income” New Yorkers (compared to 40,000 before) but keep the total number of affordable apartments at 200,000. That would help families of three earning less than $42,950, half of the area median income for the greater New York City area.
However, advocates including New York Communities for Change and Councilmember Jumaane Williams derided the changes as insufficient, pointing to the overwhelming need.
Some rent-burdened households will benefit from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Housing New York plan. However, there are over 325,000 New York families that may still be forced to pay too much in rent. (Graphs: POLITICO New York).Meanwhile, the new 421-a program, which gives a tax break to developers in exchange for affordable housing, no longer helps residents of the community where the project is built.
The program, which housing advocates see as a giveaway to developers, previously required developers to market affordable units to residents of the surrounding neighborhood before the rest of the city. However, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Affordable New York bill earlier this year, it no longer included the requirement. The Governor’s office says they weren’t involved in removing the language and so far, no one has taken credit for the change.
Whatever the reason for the removal, the rule may have been in trouble anyway. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development had been investigating whether those rules violated the Fair Housing Act. Critics also said it too often benefited middle-income New Yorkers at the expense of the very poor.
Stories We’re Following
Read more about the case and who might replace him in the City Council.
• Politicians Behaving Badly
- The New York Post has had a several-day run of stories after the NYPD cleared out homeless people from subway stations where Mayor Bill de Blasio would be. De Blasio initially denied it but then the Post revealed the evidence: an email from the NYPD Transit Bureau. That’s just embarrassing but not illegal.
- In contrast, de Blasio’s interactions with a Queens donor may have broken the law. The donor, who operates the Water’s Edge restaurant in Long Island City, was accused of underpaying rent and asked the Mayor for help. Now, a former deputy City Commissioner is suing, alleging he was fired for not playing ball.
- Also in trouble: Bronx Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, who used an expired parking placard to avoid feeding the meter. He blamed a now-fired staffer.
- Meanwhile, in Albany, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Long Island) faces heat after he spent $24,000 in government funds to renovate his office bathroom by adding a shower.
- And Governor Andrew Cuomo paid a Connecticut car repair shop $10,000to restore a car owned by Franklin Roosevelt. He then drove the car over the new Kosciuszko Bridge connecting Brooklyn and Queens.
• Dem Party Squabbles
If you thought Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans’ attacks on healthcare and LGBT rights would prompt New York Democrats to stand together in opposition, think again.
The New York State Democratic Committee (the body that directs the state party) met this week and, of course, there was infighting. Progressives pushed through a resolution condemning the Independent Democratic Conference, which helps Republicans control the State Senate. The resolution blasts the IDC for enabling “draconian Republican leadership” and accusing them of having “thwarted any real progressive agenda.” The IDC fired back at the “small band of misfits who continue to talk to each other in echo chambers and refuse to acknowledge that the party of Roosevelt, Kennedy and Clinton no longer has the ability to communicate with working-class voters.”
Meanwhile, in New York City, the Village Independent Democrats called on Manhattan Democratic Party Leader Keith Wright to resign. Wright, a former Assemblymember from Harlem, now works for a lobbying firm, Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP and critics think that’s a conflict of interests.
And Brooklyn’s Democratic County Committee had a heated meeting last night, with reformers affiliated with the New Kings Democrats club and the party establishment arguing over rule changes. Watch the highlights of the meeting.
NB: Keith Wright is a former client. The Kings County Democratic County Committee is a current client.
Number of the Week: $4 million – The Dental Association PAC contributed over $4 million to politicians since 2010. They’ve been able to block legislation that would have ended the requirement that patients getting a dental cleaning or dentures need to visit a dentist.