Taking his argument to the state capitol Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio raised serious questions about Gov. Andrew Cuomo's congestion pricing plan, said the state is massively shortchanging the city's schools, and also defended the city's deal for Amazon to build a major campus in Queens.
DE BLASIO DEFENDS HIS CRITICISMS OF CONGESTION PRICING
For the first time since he took office, de Blasio sounded almost relieved to come to Albany on Monday to testify on the state budget without Republicans in control of the state Senate.
"I'd say it was a tad warmer," the mayor said after his 2½ hours of testimony. "Definitely a more pleasant experience."
But it was a member of his own party who took the mayor to task over his reluctance to embrace congestion pricing as a means to fund the MTA. Congestion pricing, which the governor champions, would charge cars a fee to drive into Manhattan's business district.
The mayor thinks there should be exemptions for certain drivers.
"I think it is disingenuous to say that you would support a congestion pricing plan and then talk about the number of carve outs that you've suggested today. Because we know, at the end of the day with those carve outs, we will end up not raising nearly enough revenue," said Bobby Carroll, who represents parts of Flatbush and Park Slope in the state Assembly.
"I don't think it's disingenuous in the least," de Blasio said. "I'm someone who's had real concerns about the different plans we've put forth. I understand the hopes that people have associated with those plans."
MAYOR: PROPOSED STATE BUDGET SHORTCHANGES NYC EDUCATION
The mayor also told lawmakers that Cuomo's proposed budget shortchanges the city, including $300 million in missing education aid.
"The city faces $600 million in potential costs and costs shifts in the current state executive budget, and that was before the recent announcement of the additional shortfall that the state is experiencing in personal income taxes," de Blasio said.
The mayor's final request was for a renewal of mayoral control of New York City schools. Mayoral control of city schools is slated to expire later this year. Lawmakers could take that up as part of the budget, or they could revisit the issue later in the session.
DE BLASIO DEFENDS AMAZON DEAL
It was "mission critical" for New York City to land one of Amazon's second headquarters and the tens of thousands of jobs the company promises to create, de Blasio also said, just days after a report said the company was having second thoughts because of opposition from some influential local politicians.
De Blasio told lawmakers that the type of high-paying jobs the Amazon deal could bring to Queens are the kind the city needs to expand its technology sector. Amazon has said it would bring at least 25,000 and as many as 40,000 jobs to the Long Island City neighborhood over 10 to 15 years.
The mayor and Cuomo last year brokered the deal with Amazon, offering some $2.8 billion in city and state tax incentives and subsidies.
"We need those jobs," de Blasio said at the hearing. "We need that revenue."
But the Amazon deal is facing staunch opposition from some fellow Democrats in the New York City Council and the state Senate, who say too much was given away to one of the world's richest companies.
Sen. Michael Gianaris, the No. 2 lawmaker in the Democrat-controlled Senate, is one of the leading opponents of the Amazon deal. Gianaris, whose Queens district includes Long Island City, has said the city and state incentives could have been spent on local programs such as public transit and housing.
Speaking on public radio Monday, Gianaris said concerns that Amazon might abandon the deal haven't prompted him to reconsider his opposition.
"New York is bigger than Amazon," he said. "We don't have to do what they want, especially if it's the wrong thing."
Cuomo again defended the Amazon deal during a news conference in the state capitol on Monday, saying the project will bring good jobs in a promising sector of the economy — as well as billions of dollars in new tax revenue. He said any project of its size would generate local opposition.
"It's the nature of the beast," he said.
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