POLICE YANKED A TODDLER FROM HIS MOTHER IN BROOKLYN. THEN DE BLASIO WENT ON THE HOT SEAT.
Mayor Bill de Blasio took heat this week for not forcefully denouncing the NYPD officers who pried a one-year-old boy from his mother's arms in Brooklyn. It wasn't until Wednesday, a full five days after Jazmine Headley was arrested in Brooklyn — and a few days after the video went viral — that the mayor spoke publicly about the treatment of the 23-year-old. His critics on the left took note, with some saying Public Advocate de Blasio would have slammed the police.
De Blasio got union backlash, too, as Greg Floyd, the head of Teamsters Union Local 237, the union that represents two peace officers who were later suspended in connection to the incident, condemned the mayor, saying he made his workers into scapegoats.
"The mayor is afraid of the PBA [the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the union that represents New York City patrol officers]," Floyd said. "He's afraid of the police officers and he looked for a scapegoat, so he took two minority women who can barely make a living, make less than the police officers, during Christmastime and he suspends them for his own political life."
NYC'S BOARD OF ELECTIONS BOSS RESIGNS FROM VOTING MACHINE ADVISORY BOARD AFTER NY1 INVESTIGATION
In 2014, the executive director of the city's Board of Elections joined a secretive advisory board for one of his agency's largest contractors, the maker of our voting machines, Election Systems and Software (ES&S). On Tuesday, Michael Ryan abruptly resigned from that contractor's board.
It came a week after an exclusive NY1 investigation found that, as part of his role on this advisory board, ES&S had flown Ryan across the country, put him up in hotels, and bought him dinners. They were so-called conferences. One of those trips was to Las Vegas. NY1 revealed Ryan did not disclose several of these trips in his required annual disclosure forms with the city's conflicts of interest board. All along, Ryan had said he did nothing wrong. But since our story, multiple elected officials have called for him to resign from the Board of Elections, citing the possible conflict of interest.
Ryan announced his decision to leave the ES&S advisory board after he met with the Board of Elections for almost an hour. Most board members didn't discuss what exactly was said, and a sound machine was turned on to muffle what was going on behind the door.
A NEW YORK CITY HEARING WITH FEW FRIENDS FOR AMAZON
The City Council may not have any real shot at shutting down the deal de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo made to bring Amazon's second headquarters to Long Island City, but they still railed against the company at a fiery hearing at City Hall on Wednesday. Protesters slammed the deal, particularly the city and New York state offering Amazon up to $2.8 billion in tax breaks and grants to build the new headquarters in Queens. The demonstrators interrupted the proceedings at times, leading to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson saying he would clear the balcony if interjections continued.
But Johnson was not on the megacorporation's side. "We have a crumbling subway system, record homelessness, public housing that is in crisis, overcrowded schools, sick people without health insurance, and an escalating affordable crisis," Johnson said. "Is anyone asking if we should be giving nearly $3 billion in public money to the world's richest company, valued at $1 trillion?"
The executives also stoked the ire of Johnson when he struggled to get Amazon to even commit to returning to City Hall for more public hearings on the project. After some back and forth, an Amazon executive eventually agreed to come back next year.
Cuomo and de Blasio say the HQ2 move would be an economic boon that would bring tens of thousands of jobs, and Brian Huseman, Amazon's vice president for public policy, said the project would provide "over $186 billion in positive economic impact" over 25 years. But many elected officials weren't buying it. City and state lawmakers, including some who signed earlier letters calling for the online giant to move to the city, are angered at being cut out of a deal that was negotiated without their input, and have criticized both the process and the Amazon subsidies. Council members questioned Amazon's executives about everything from the company's labor practices to its deleterious effect on small businesses to its contract to provide facial-recognition technology to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
ASIAN-AMERICAN PARENTS SUE CITY, ALLEGING BIAS OVER SHSAT
When de Blasio announced a plan to change how students are admitted to the city's elite public high schools, Asian-American parents gathered at a Brooklyn banquet hall to protest.
Parents returned Thursday, six months later, to announce a federal civil rights lawsuit accusing the mayor and the schools chancellor of discrimination, saying their children are being unfairly pushed aside by the mayor's plan to boost the small number of black and Latino students admitted to the city's most selective public high schools. 62 percent of the students at the eight elite public high schools are Asian. The parents filing suit call the mayor's changes a quota system to keep their kids out.
The mayor has complained that the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), the exam required for entry to specialized high schools like Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech, is responsible for a lack of diversity at the schools. But ending the test would require changing state law, so he instead changed the city's Discovery Program, which offers tutoring and admissions to the elite schools for students who just missed the exam cutoff. His plan reserves 20 percent of seats at the schools for Discovery students, and restricts the program to children in high-poverty middle schools, which black and Hispanic students attend in higher numbers in New York City.
The conservative-leaning Pacific Legal Foundation has taken the case pro bono. The nonprofit says it looks for cases of government overreach that could set precedent. It has won most of its cases that have gone to the Supreme Court.
BEN CARSON'S NYCHA ULTIMATUM
Last week, de Blasio and federal housing chief Ben Carson met in Washington to discuss the future of New York City public housing. All along, the mayor has said he wants the control of the housing authority to remain in City Hall.
But on Friday, Carson threatened to intervene. He threatened to put the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) in "substantial default" — a technical move and the first step towards a federal takeover — if the agency does not come up with a satisfactory plan by January 31 to repair the housing stock. The letter to the head of NYCHA was the first concrete sign that the federal government is weighing such a major move, called a receivership.
(Could Ben Carson, who has never visited the largest public housing system in the United States, take control of NYCHA?)
The ultimatum came a few hours before the deadline for the federal government, the U.S. Attorney's Office, and the city to submit paperwork to a federal judge about how they want to fix the city's struggling public housing system. Late Friday night, the city and the U.S. Attorney's Office's submitted papers to the court asking for 45 days to reach an agreement, requesting to submit a joint status report on a repair plan by January 31.
The HUD letter came just two days after de Blasio released a new plan to fix NYCHA, trying to reverse decades of neglect. This one would pay for about $24 billion worth of repairs over the next 10 years, although the housing authority says the need is $32 billion. HUD does not reference the plan in the letter, but the agency sent out a press release saying it wants to see a NYCHA reform plan that establishes "tangible goals and milestones," including increased oversight and ways to properly address lead and mold in housing units, by the end-of-January deadline.
De Blasio is opposed to receiverships, arguing they have had mixed results around the United States. "These receiverships, at minimum, are a mixed bag," the mayor said in a radio interview Friday morning. "Some of them turned out very poorly. Some of them involve privatization. Some of them involve tearing down public housing in different cities."
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