Schumer & Donovan Discuss Flood Insurance and Biggert-Waters

Today I had the opportunity to talk with Senator Chuck Schumer and Shaun Donovan, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, about the outlook for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and particularly whether they foresee any changes or modifications to the program as currently in effect under the Biggert-Waters Act.  (The primary purpose of their press conference, which also included Rep. Carolyn Maloney,  was to announce additional mortgage forbearance and modification programs for homeowners affected by Sandy.)

The NFIP has been underpriced for many years and, after the large covered losses caused by Hurricane Katrina, it had a program deficit of more than $17 billion in early 2011.  The deficit was addressed in the Biggert-Waters Act, which significantly modified the program.  As The Wave newspaper of Rockaway has been extensively examining (see here and here), those changes in the NFIP, in combination with soon-to-be adopted new FEMA flood maps, will produce dramatically higher flood insurance rates and require many homeowners to purchase flood insurance for the first time.  Such increased insurance rates and coverage requirements will likely have a deep long-term impact on Sandy-damaged areas such as Rockaway.

Senator Schumer accurately pointed out that the increases are to be phased-in over several years.  That’s helpful to homeowners, of course, but it only delays the underlying long term economics; previously underpriced insurance is being brought to actuarial rates and large subsidies are being reduced or eliminated.  Secretary Donovan said that it is the Obama administration’s position that Congress needs to act to “add … a long-term affordability provision” for “lower income and more vulnerable homeowners” to the NFIP.  Any such provisions have yet to be detailed and are, at best, uncertain to occur.  Secretary Donovan also spoke about the importance accurately and promptly preparing the new flood maps.  Senator Schumer added that “we are going to have to examine” affordability.

Here’s the full clip of Senator Schumer and Secretary Donovan discussing the NFIP and Biggert-Waters.  Watch what they had to say.

Democratic Mayoral Candidates Discuss Sandy Recovery

At last night’s mayoral candidate forum at Queens College, four Democratic candidates were asked about the City’s post-Sandy rebuilding plans, how they “would get the job done” and about options for “people whose insurance and FEMA support will not cover the expense of a new home and for whom rebuilding is not an option.”

The candidates, Sal Albanese, Bill de Blasio, John Liu and Bill Thompson, gave empathetic and sometimes informative answers that illustrate the continuing challenges for those rebuilding from Sandy.  Bill de Blasio discussed communication problems restricting recovery efforts and his early efforts at formulating a mold remediation plan, while John Liu discussed FEMA funding and investments by the City pension funds.  All four answers were not really addressing the question posed, however, and reflected the reality that each day other issues and political problems push Sandy recovery further away from center stage for most New Yorkers.  One question among many, in front of an audience with many other concerns, the candidates touched on it briefly and moved on, driven by the need to talk about other things and connect on other issues interesting voters.

New Yorkers who continue to rebuild would be wise to work to foster a sustained discussion by the candidates, as our next mayor’s level of knowledge, interest and engagement will be a deeply influential force on the long term recovery.

We’ve posted the full question and all four answers.  Although it runs about 10 minutes, if you are interested in the continuing Sandy recovery, it’s worth watching.

Christine Quinn and Erick Salgado did not attend this candidate forum.  You can see our report on Christine Quinn’s discussion of Governor Cuomo’s proposed homeowner buyout plan here.

John Liu Discusses the NY Times Investigation (Updated)

At last night’s Democratic mayoral candidate forum, hosted by the Asian American Federation, John Liu was asked: “Do you think the New York Times was right in investigating your campaign finances as vigorously as it did?”

Liu tried to make nice with the Times, laying blame on federal prosecutors, but then said that the Times was “in bed with the federal government … they were being fed by the Feds”.  He also asserts that “not a single fake donor has been established other than the ones that were the result of an FBI undercover agent … tricking and deceiving his way into my campaign.”

Somewhat surprisingly, Liu received a nice but not overwhelming audience welcome.  Whether the attendees were merely restrained in their applause or whether they were not strongly supportive of Liu should be revealed today.  The Federation conducted a straw poll after the forum and we’ll bring you the results later today.

My apologies for the poor sound quality.

The Federation held a Republican mayoral candidate forum last week – coverage is here and here.

Update:  Straw poll results are in.  Liu – 54%, de Blasio – 29%, Albanese – 13%, Quinn – 2%, Thompson – 2%.

Thompson Looks for a Fight

As recent attention in the mayoral race narrowed to Christine Quinn and Bill de Blasio, Bill Thompson tried to elbow his way into the mix.  It’s a classic move; a second place candidate, de Blasio, picks a fight with a first place candidate, Quinn, focusing attention on those two alone and leaving the rest of the field behind.  Today Bill Thompson tried to avoid that fate with sharp comments about Christine Quinn and the independent expenditure ad currently drawing attention.


Democrat #6 – Salgado Kickoff Report (Updated)

Yesterday, Erick Salgado joined the crowd of candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor, holding a large campaign kickoff rally on the steps of City Hall.  (He has previously been campaigning and raising money – you can watch our report from a candidate forum he attended in March here.)

Salgado, a Brooklyn pastor little known in politics, staged an impressive rally.  His campaign brought in 300 supporters for his energetic speech.  Raised in Puerto Rico, he speaks english with a thick accent and somewhat jumbled syntax.  He nonetheless is engaging and charismatic, holding his audience in both english and spanish.  As he put it during his speech:  “I speak with an accent, I’m proud of it, but I don’t think with an accent.”

Notable supporters at the rally included Senator Ruben Diaz and Gregory Davidzon, the politically active operator of an influential russian-language radio station.  (We spoke with Senator Diaz about the arrest of his fellow Bronx Democrat Eric Stevenson – you can watch it here.)

He faces many challenges, but comes with some real strengths.  Watch our report for a full analysis.

Here is a more extensive set of clips from Salgado’s rally, including segments in spanish.

Senator Ruben Diaz Discusses Eric Stevenson and Albany

This afternoon I spoke State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. about the arrest of his fellow Bronx state legislator, Assemblymember Eric Stevenson, and about whether the level of corruption in Albany has gotten better or worse since he was first elected.

We spoke at mayoral candidate Erick Salgado’s energetic campaign rally on the steps of City Hall.  Diaz endorsed Salgado.  We’ll have more on Salgado’s campaign in a later report.

Mayoral Mashup – Asian American Federation Edition

In our Mayoral Mashup we talk with voters, as well as political and policy leaders, about what they see as the most important issue facing New York City’s next mayor.

For this Mayoral Mashup we spoke with voters attending a Republican mayoral candidate forum hosted by the Asian American Federation, asking one simple question:  What do you see as the most important issue that our next mayor will face upon taking office?  Watch to find out what they had to say.

One additional note:  The Federation conducted a straw poll at the conclusion of the forum, with the following results:  Adolfo Carrion – 44%, John Catsimatidis – 29%, George McDonald – 27%.

We have some additional coverage of the forum here.

Watch our previous Mayoral Mashups here, herehere and here.