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Quote of the Week: “I don’t want to embarrass myself by putting the ice cream in my ear.” – West Harlem Assemblyman Denny Farrell announcing his retirement after 42 years. By resigning now, Farrell will be able to anoint his chief of staff as the Democratic nominee for the special election in November, without a primary.
In a surprise, possibly in response to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal for a millionaires’ tax to pay for improving the subways, Governor Andrew Cuomo suggested to the New York Times he would support a congestion pricing plan.
What is congestion pricing?
At its core, a congestion pricing plan would charge drivers going into Manhattan’s central business district (the area south of 59th Street). Transportation and environmental advocates hail the idea for both encouraging drivers to take public transportation and also providing the funding to improve mass transit. Academics point out that traffic imposes a cost and so congestion pricing plans, by reducing traffic, balance out some of that cost for drivers. However, drivers who have to pay those new fees generally feel more negatively.
London pioneered congestion pricing starting in 2003 and Mayor Mike Bloomberg promoted the idea as Mayor.
Bloomberg’s plan, which would have charged drivers $8 a day, failed to win approval in the state legislature. Outer borough and suburban legislators vociferously objected to the idea that they would have to pay while wealthy Manhattanites who already lived in the area would not. In the Assembly, the plan was so roundly opposed that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver never even brought it up to a vote.
Does it have a chance?
Surprisingly, there’s bipartisan support for congestion pricing that would charge drivers going into Manhattan while while also lowering tolls on bridges outside of the area.
However, as the Cuomo administration works through the details of their proposal, the 2018 election will be in the background. Andrew Cuomo is already facing a potentially challenging race and both the state of the MTA and any congestion pricing plan are likely to be major factors in the NYC area. He’ll want to show that he’s doing something for the MTA without angering suburban drivers.
Okay, actually you will. (Donald Trump only has one married daughter, after all).
The Housing Rights Initiative is suing Kushner Companies (of which Jared was CEO until he left for Washington) for flagrantly violating New York rent regulation laws. The suit, on behalf of nine tenants, claims that a Brooklyn Heights building, 89 Hicks Street, should have been under rent regulation after the Jehovah’s Witnesses sold it to Kushner.
Stories We’re Following
After New Orleans removed Confederate memorials, Brooklyn’s Democratic Members of Congress called on the Army to do the same. Last week, just days before neo-Nazis and white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, the Department of the Army responded, saying that renaming the streets would be “controversial and divisive.” Now, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is joining the chorus, calling on the Army to reverse its decision.
Those street names have also become an issue in the City Council race for the area. Justin Brannan and Rev. Khader El-Yateem, two of the frontrunners for the Bay Ridge seat (currently held by Vinny Gentile), called for renaming the streets.
They’ve accomplished something, however. The Episcopal Diocese of Long Island removed a plaque honoring Robert E. Lee. The plaque was attached to a tree outside the now-closed St. John’s Episcopal Church, also known as the Church of the Generals due to its proximity to Fort Hamilton. And Bronx Community College removed busts of Lee and Jackson from their Hall of Fame for Great Americans.
• Mayors Cruising to Re-Election
Unlike New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown have real races in the Democratic primary this year. All three mayors appear to be in good shape, though.
In Buffalo, a Spectrum News/Siena College poll found Brown with 51% and in a strong position as he campaigns for a fourth term. His opponents were far behind: Buffalo Comptroller Mark Schroeder earned 24% with Erie County legislator Betty Jean Grant at 13%.
Spectrum/Siena also polled Albany, finding Sheehan similarly ahead. 50% of likely Democratic voters said they’d vote for Sheehan. Albany Common Council member Frank Commisso Jr. has 20% and Albany Council President Carolyn McLaughlin is at 13%.
The primaries for all three races are September 12th. Given the Democratic tilts of the cities, the winner of the Democratic primary is likely to win the general election as well.
• Loeb Blow for Charter School
After the report of Gov. Cuomo’s difficulties with the Senate Democrats, hedge funder Dan Loeb made what the New York Times delicately described as a “racial remark.” He posted on Facebook that Democratic Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a black woman, was worse than the KKK.
Normally, one guy’s racist Facebook posts wouldn’t be news–we have a President’s tweets to worry about–except that Dan Loeb isn’t just any guy. He’s the chair of the Success Academy charter school network and a major donor to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s campaigns. Cue the uproar.
Critics called on Cuomo and others to give back Loeb’s contributions. City Comptroller Scott Stringer contributed the $4,500 her received from Loeb to support Robert Jackson’s state Senate campaign. That’s a double blow since Jackson, a leading advocate of public schools, is running against IDC member Marisol Alcantara and his victory would help Stewart-Cousins lead the Senate.
This comes in the midst of an ongoing divide within Success Academy and the charter school movement. Its CEO, Eva Moskowitz, defeneded Donald Trump and praised Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. That support for Trump pushed Shavar Jeffries, president of Democrats for Education Reform, to resign from the board. Meanwhile, Loeb continues to serve as the chair of the Success Academy board.
Number of the Week: $54 million. The NYPD is looking to pay an ad agency, Walton Isaacson, $54 million over five years to help diversify its ranks. They are especially looking to attract more African American, Asian, Jewish, Muslim, women and LGBTQ officers.