Amazon reportedly appears to be nearing its breaking point over opposition to its plan to open a major corporate campus in Long Island City. Plus, Mayor Bill de Blasio had a new type of message to city agencies: Cut your budgets.
Here's what else you may have missed in New York politics this week:
LAWMAKERS PUSH FOR ONE OF AMAZON'S FIERCEST CRITICS TO SIT ON A BOARD THAT COULD MAKE TROUBLE FOR ITS MOVE TO NYC
(Could a staunch opponent of Amazon's move to New York City play a role in making trouble for the deal?)
The Amazon fight is spreading from Queens to Albany. The state Senate on Monday recommended that one of the deal's fiercest critics, State Sen. Michael Gianaris of Queens, sit on an obscure authorities board that could make trouble for the deal.
What does this mean for Amazon's move to Long Island City?
The Public Authorities Control Board, or PACB, is an obscure public board that could scuttle the Amazon deal. Gianaris is a staunch opponent of the deal, which is rich with public tax incentives.
But technically speaking, all appointees are merely recommendations from the legislature and the governor formally appoints the board. In a statement, a spokesperson for Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized the state Senate's recommendation. Cuomo has said previously that he may not need to go through the PACB for Amazon after all. Others say he will, just not right away.
TEN CANDIDATES DEBATE TO BECOME NYC'S NEXT BULLY PULPIT
Ten candidates for Public Advocate clashed in a NY1 debate Wednesday night over their support for Amazon building a campus in New York City, the crisis in public housing, and if they support a plan to eliminate an admission test for specialized high schools.
Second-in-line to the mayor, should the mayor not be able to complete his or her term, the Public Advocate is an office with little real power and a vaguely defined mission. Essentially, the office functions as a city government watchdog and an ombudsperson for the public. The Public Advocate investigates complaints and issues reports, and can also introduce legislation in the City Council, although he or she cannot vote on it. But the office does provide a highly-visible perch and is widely viewed as a springboard to higher office.
What did the candidates clash over?
While all but one of the candidates are Democrats, they disagreed on some policy details:
On the Amazon deal, some called for the mega-corporation to never come near New York City while others want the deal to be put on hold in exchange for explicit investment commitments.
On the recent deal to install a federal monitor for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), most candidates expressed reservations, particularly over federal involvement, and demanded more federal funding. But two candidates welcomed additional oversight, arguing falsified lead paint inspections are evidence the city is unfit to be landlord to more than 400,000 New Yorkers.
And on the Special High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), an exam required for eighth-graders to get into the city's eight specialized high schools, some candidates agreed with Mayor Bill de Blasio's proposal to eliminate the test while others wanted different reforms. But they all agreed that reforms of some kind were needed to admit more students.
CUOMO TO LAWMAKERS: EMBRACE CONGESTION PRICING OR EXPECT $3 FARES
Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered New Yorkers a stark choice Thursday, saying that unless lawmakers get on board with his plan to authorize new tolls for motorists entering the busiest parts of Manhattan, fares and tolls for subways, buses, tunnels and bridges will go up by 30 percent. According to Cuomo, it's the only way to raise much-needed funds to help repair the MTA.
How likely are lawmakers to get on board with the congestion pricing plan?
Congestion pricing failed in the state legislature about a decade ago, and some of the same concerns remain in place today, including that charging drivers to come into Manhattan during business hours will most adversely affect those who live in the other boroughs.
Cuomo claims 25 percent of those costs will be borne by out-of-state drivers, and the percentages from the five boroughs are much smaller. In Brooklyn, only 1.3 percent commute by car. In Queens, it's 2.2 percent, 1.9 percent in the Bronx, and 2.3 percent for Staten Island.
"Those are the numbers of people who would actually be affected," the governor said. Some elected officials representing Queens and Brooklyn aren't buying it.
MAYOR TO CITY AGENCIES: CUT YOUR BUDGETS
For the first time as mayor, Bill de Blasio on Thursday called for city agencies to cut their budgets, painting a grim economic outlook for New York City he said is the result of volatile nationwide economic activity, a loss in personal income tax revenue, and cuts and cost shifts in the state budget.
Some highlights from the preliminary budget proposal:
- The preliminary budget is a record $92.2 billion, an increase of $3 billion from last year.
- The mayor calls for city agencies to cut their budgets, looking for $750 million in agency savings by April. The cuts must be recurring.
- The mayor calls for the expansion of the partial hiring freeze.
- The budget does not include more funding for the MTA.
- The budget calls for deeper investments in the city's "3K for All" program, health care for the uninsured, and the "Fair Fares" program, which provides reduced-price MetroCards to low-income New Yorkers.
- De Blasio says the city is seeing a shortfall in personal income tax revenue, about $1 billion less than last year.
The mayor also projects $600 million in cuts and cost shifts to the city in the state budget, and says the city could lose up to $500 million a month, beginning in May, if the federal government shuts down again on February 15.
PUBLIC HOUSING FUND RAISES JUST 1 PERCENT OF ITS GOAL TO IMPROVE SERVICES FOR RESIDENTS
Almost four years ago, the mayor and the then-head of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) unveiled a new rescue plan for the struggling agency. As part of the blueprint, NYCHA would create a new nonprofit arm to raise money to improve services for residents. In three years, the fund aimed to raise $200 million.
NY1 reviewed the Fund for Public Housing's tax documents and found the nonprofit never even came close to reaching its goal.
How much money did the fund raise?
In 2017, the fund raised $436,090. Its ending balance for that year? It was in the red: -$213,358.
According to the Housing Authority, as of the end of 2018, the fund had raised $1,829,259 since it was founded. Its ending balance as of October? It was -$46,111 in the hole.
Those close to the fund argue that even without millions of dollars, it did some good work. In part, it did get holiday gifts for children, and secured funding for tax prep services for residents.
AMAZON REPORTEDLY APPEARS TO BE REACHING A BREAKING POINT OVER ITS PLAN TO COME TO NYC
(Could Amazon abandon its plan to open a major corporate campus in Long Island City?)
Amazon appears to be nearing its breaking point over its plan to open a major corporate campus in Long Island City due to, in part, fierce opposition from local politicians, sources told NY1 on Friday.
What's Amazon saying?
The Washington Post first reported the news, citing "two people familiar with the company's thinking" who say the company is reconsidering plans for a new campus in Long Island City. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post.
Amazon officials did not dispute the news. In a statement in response to the report, an Amazon spokesperson said, "We're focused on engaging with our new neighbors - small business owners, educators, and community leaders. Whether it's building a pipeline of local jobs through workforce training or funding computer science classes for thousands of New York City students, we are working hard to demonstrate what kind of neighbor we will be."
Mayor Bill de Blasio, meanwhile, does not seem eager to fight on behalf of Amazon. His press secretary seemed to put the onus entirely on the company to quell opposition, saying in a statement, "The Mayor fully expects Amazon to deliver on its promise to New Yorkers."
MULTIPLE WOMEN RAISE CONCERNS ABOUT BRONX DEMOCRAT'S POWER AND CONSERVATIVE RECORD ON WOMEN'S RIGHTS
(Bronx Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, the powerful chairman of the Democratic Party in the Bronx. Multiple women have raised concerns about his conservative views and the reach and power of his organization).
Assemblyman Marcos Crespo of the Bronx will co-chair historic sexual harassment hearings scheduled to be held in Albany next week, despite a socially conservative voting record that has caught the attention of some critics.
Six different women in the Bronx who are connected to the Bronx Democratic organization either wouldn't speak to us on the record, or agreed to speak to us but then backed out after having what they described as "conversations" with Crespo's organization.
NY1's Zack Fink received this text message from a woman who initially agreed to speak with us:
Crespo's power and conservative voting record on women's rights:
Crespo is not only the chair of the Labor Committee in the Assembly, but he is also the powerful chairman of the Democratic Party in the Bronx. It's an organization that has been accused of blocking women candidates who don't hold Crespo's more conservative views.
"While they don't discourage you, they do make an effort to undermine your campaign and sometimes keep incumbents in that don't have the interests of the South Bronx at heart," said Ramona Ferreyra, a Bronx community organizer.
Crespo voted against same-sex marriage in 2011, and he once sponsored a bill requiring parental notification for abortion. He has also voted against women's reproductive rights almost every year, including just a few weeks ago when the legislature passed the Reproductive Health Act to codify Roe v. Wade at the state level.
FORMER BOSS OF THE NYC CORRECTION OFFICERS' UNION SENTENCED TO ALMOST 5 YEARS IN PRISON
(Norman Seabrook led New York City's correction officers' union for more than two decades. Now, he's been told he has to go to prison himself, for close to five years, on corruption charges. Zoe Slemmons/NY1).
The former president of the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association (COBA) was sentenced Friday to nearly five years behind bars on corruption charges.
What was he convicted of?
Norman Seabrook, once one of the most powerful union leaders in New York, was convicted of bribery and conspiracy last year. He allegedly took a kickback for sending millions of dollars of the union's pension funds to a hedge fund. $19 million of the union's money was lost. Seabrook and the other defendants linked to the scheme will have to pay that money back.
It was the second time this case was tried. The first trial in 2017 ended in a mistrial.
All along, Seabrook has remained defiant, claiming he was innocent and did nothing wrong. He plans to appeal the conviction.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.
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