de Blasio Visits Rockaway (Updated)



Mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio visited Rockaway yesterday, touring the closed Peninsula Hospital, visiting a family who continues to work on post-Sandy repairs to their home and attending a forum hosted by Faith in New York at St. Mary Star of the Sea in Far Rockaway.  Although Rockaway has progressed greatly in recovering from Sandy, much work remains.  Many residents and businesses continue repairing their damaged property and reorganizing their lives as the city and federal governments repair infrastructure and contemplate future steps.

Rockaway has long had severe financial and social stresses, with some sections as rough and impoverished as any in the city.  Those rougher sections of Rockaway happen to have an ocean beach, but they’re weighed down by the same troubles as neighborhoods in less bucolic locations.  Everyone in Rockaway, whatever their economic status, race and ethnicity or political views, was severely affected by Sandy and has faced great challenges in struggling to recover.  Unsurprisingly, however, those on the down side of Rockaway’s long standing economic and social fault lines faced Sandy with the least; the least money, the least ability to relocate, the least political influence, the fewest options, and have been the slowest to recover.  It was this part of Rockaway that de Blasio visited yesterday.

Press Q & A:

Following the forum, de Blasio spoke with the press.

Here are two excerpts covering Rockaway-specific questions.  The first, from Kevin Boyle of The Wave, addresses the dramatic increases in flood insurance resulting from the Biggert-Waters Act.

The second, from Katie Honan of DNAinfo and co-founder of Rockaway Help, addresses the hospital crisis in Rockaway following the closing of Peninsula Hospital and the current stress on Rockaway’s sole remaining hospital, St. John’s Episcopal.

Here is de Blasio’s full Q&A with the press, including his opening statement describing his visit.

Update – Forum on Sandy Recovery:

In his remarks at the forum on Hurricane Sandy recovery, hosted by Faith In New York, de Blasio called for an expansive use of Sandy recovery money.  He advocated addressing many of Rockaway’s long standing social and economic issues, calling it “our obligation … to figure out how much good we can do with the resources that we’re receiving, and not just in the narrow sense of helping people immediately in need, but how can we change the structure of things.”  Here are selected excerpts from his comments.

Lhota’s Challenges: The Friendlies Edition



Topping the list of challenges facing Joe Lhota is his own party’s unity and support.  While rival Bill de Blasio has methodically pulled his former rivals and their supporters onto his bandwagon, Lhota has had less success in uniting Republicans.  Republicans are, of course, vastly outnumbered in New York City and even a unified party falls far short of what Lhota needs to win, but it’s a basic building block that Lhota has not yet put into place.

Since the primary de Blasio has received the public support of his top three Democratic primary rivals (Bill Thompson, Chris Quinn and John Liu), while also receiving the endorsement of three Democratic county organizations (Bronx, Queens and Manhattan) that did not support him in the primary.  In contrast, Lhota has not received the endorsement of either of his primary rivals John Catsimatidis or George McDonald, and has only received a few additional public endorsements, with George Pataki, State Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos and New York County Chairman Dan Isaacs among them. Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro (who is a Conservative Party, not Republican Party, member and who endorsed Christine Quinn in the primary) has also endorsed Lhota.

Queens County is a stark illustration of Lhota’s challenge.  The County Republican organization supported John Catsimatidis in the primary and appears unlikely to actively support Lhota.  It’s split into two factions, one led by Chairman Phil Ragusa (supporting Catsimatidis) and the other composed of a mix of people bitterly opposed to Ragusa, including Council Member Eric Ulrich and former council member Tom Ognibene, as well as the now infamous John Haggerty and his brother Bart.  Ragusa appears to have just won re-election as chairman over challenger, and former congressman, Bob Turner, whom Lhota supported.  At a Friday press conference, Politicker’s Ross Barkan (who closely follows and reports on Queens politics) asked Lhota about the leadership battle, and Lhota responded with the following harsh critique of “Comrade Ragusa”.  Based on Lhota’s comments, it appears that Queens County Republican Committee support for Lhota is, shall we say, not imminent.

(Note that the questions were at a press conference held before the vote for county chairman was completed.  It’s subsequently been unofficially reported that Ragusa won re-election in Friday’s vote.)

Lhota Tries to Trash the Transfer Station



Joe Lhota is solidly against the 91st Street marine transfer station, announcing that as mayor he will discontinue the City’s efforts at building it.  Lhota appeared at a press conference this morning in front of Asphalt Green, the sports and arts facility immediately adjacent to the planned waste transfer station.  Speaking to an enthusiastic crowd of 100 or so, it was one of the best Lhota campaign appearances that I’ve seen so far.

The transfer station is part of the City’s Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan, a large, complex plan which is more than a decade in the making.  The SWMP grew out of the Giuliani-era closing of the Fresh Kills landfill, previously the destination for the City’s garbage, as the City has tried to develop a long term plan for waste transfer.  Lhota is certainly knowledgable on the topic, having been involved in the Fresh Kills closing as Giuliani’s deputy mayor for operations.

Q&A:

In answering questions from the press, Lhota addressed some of the operational aspects of the City’s waste transfer plan, asserting that eliminating the 91st Street station and instead continuing to truck the affected trash to New Jersey would be less expensive and a better outcome.  When asked why this was so important to him, Lhota gave several reasons, concluding by noting that he “expect[s] to live in a building right over here”, pointing toward Gracie Mansion.  When questioned why as a Republican he would engage in “environmental activism”, he responded with a sense of outrage, saying that it is not just a Democratic issue and noting that a Republican president created the EPA (that would be Richard Nixon, but without noting, well, you can guess at all that he didn’t note).

Here is Lhota’s on-topic press Q&A from this morning.

Background:

The 91st Street marine transfer station was a topic of discussion during the primaries, with candidates split on what they would do about it.  For some background, here is a discussion from a Bronx mayoral forum in June.  It’s an issue that inflames many outside of Manhattan, who see it as efforts by a wealthy, well-connected neighbor to avoid the same burdens that they face.

Lhota On The Street: Jackson Heights Edition



Today Joe Lhota walked along 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights, visiting local businesses and talking with reporters.

Municipal IDs & Drivers Licenses:

As mayor, Lhota plans to issue municipal identification cards.  Such IDs could be obtained by anyone, whether or not a citizen or legal resident, but the real purpose is to give the undocumented a form of government issued identification in order to ease many of the day-to-day difficulties of living without documentation.  Lhota goes further, proposing that his version of a municipal ID will assist the “unbanked” by including a credit/debit card function.  When asked about drivers licenses, Lhota seems to clearly support issuing them to the undocumented, although he is not actually calling for the state to do so and says that he does “not want to burden the state system”.  Lhota was replying to questions from NY1 Noticias.

Campaign Moments:

Lhota has grown more comfortable campaigning and seems to mostly enjoy it.  This brief clip features a few moments from today’s walk.

Lhota Discusses Day One



Today Joe Lhota described his three immediate priorities should he take office in January. Responding to a question from NY1’s Courtney Gross, Lhota listed meeting with the City’s union leaders to develop a “roadmap” to reaching new contracts, meeting with “the leaders of all the banks in New York” to encourage them to loosen credit restrictions while also assisting businesses in better preparing for credit requests, and meeting with college and university presidents to discuss ways to help the City’s economy, as his immediate priorities.

JoLho v. JCats: The Epilogue



Celeste Katz of the Daily News today reported that former Republican mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis is, so far, unwilling to endorse Republican primary victor Joe Lhota.  Among other comments, Catsimatidis is reported as saying “[d]eep down inside, I feel he doesn’t like me, and if he doesn’t like me, that’s why I’ve held back.”

I asked Lhota about Catsimatidis’ comments, and whether it is a problem that his rival has not supported him, all as Bill de Blasio brings his former rivals onboard.  Lhota gave a lengthy description of their contacts from primary night, including phone calls, texts and a breakfast.  He also tried to be friendly toward Catsimatidis, exclaiming “what’s not to like about John Catsimatidis”, but also saying “I don’t understand why he makes such disparaging remarks about me.”

We spoke this morning at a reception for “King of Queens” honorees.

Public Advocate Candidate Slugfest (Updated)



The two remaining Democratic Public Advocate candidates, Letitia James and Daniel Squadron, met in a televised debate last night.  With a week to go until Tuesday’s runoff election, the candidates had a sharp, often personally contentious, meeting.  The full debate, hosted by NY1 and moderated by Errol Louis and Brian Lehrer, is available here.

That tone continued in their post-debate comments to the press.  Both candidates attacked the perceived faults of the other, with closeness to Mayor Bloomberg a featured item.  (In March we asked the candidates for their view of Mayor Bloomberg and his tenure.  Both praised some of his specific accomplishments, but varied in how harshly they assessed his overall record.  You can watch those interviews here.)  I asked both candidates whether they have asked the current Public Advocate, and Democratic mayoral candidate, Bill de Blasio for his endorsement.  Their answers? “I haven’t” and “good night everybody.”

Here are the full post-debate Q&As with each candidate.

Letitia James:

Daniel Squadron:

Queens Quits Quinn, Loves Bill (Updated)



The Queens County Democratic Organization endorsed Bill de Blasio for mayor yesterday. de Blasio has been steadily consolidating his former foes and their supporters as he shifts to the general election.  The Queens County organization supported Christine Quinn in the primary, having long had a strong relationship with her.  They put on a strong, enthusiastic rally for de Blasio, however, with a wide range of Queens Democrats joining Chairman Joe Crowley in front of Borough Hall.

de Blasio Press Q&A:

At a morning press conference focused on condemning Iran, de Blasio had declined to answer any questions from the press, promising to do so at the afternoon Queens rally, all while he led a pack of reporters on a three block walking chase.  He fulfilled his morning promise at the Queens rally.  Here is Bill de Blasio’s full Q & A with the press.

Update – Crowley/de Blasio Highlights:

Here are highlights from the remarks of Joe Crowley and Bill de Blasio.

Mayoral Candidates on Iran Diplomatic Initiative



Joe Lhota and Bill de Blasio support President Obama’s current diplomatic initiative toward Iran.  We asked both candidates that question yesterday, and both gave indirect answers that appear to condition support on continued sanctions and other forms of pressure on the Iranian government, but were nonetheless supportive of the initiative.  We spoke with Lhota at a press conference condemning the Iranian government, sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council, and with de Blasio at a campaign event in Queens.  Here’s what they had to say.

Mayoral Candidates, Iran & Running (Updated)



Today the Jewish Community Relations Council hosted a press conference aimed at condemning the government of Iran and calling for continued action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.  The press conference, held in front of the United Nations, is an annual event timed for the start of the United Nations General Assembly session.  Among the many New York elected officials and candidates participating were mayoral candidates Joe Lhota and Bill de Blasio.

Lhota Media Availability:

Following his remarks at the press conference, Joe Lhota spoke with the press on the topic of Iran, as well as several other topics.  Among the questions he addressed were his view of the recent diplomatic initiative by the United States towards Iran (he seems to be in favor, although it’s “not enough”) and his view of Jonathan Pollard, the Israeli spy imprisoned by the United States (he seems to be in favor of considering his release).  Lhota’s full press availability is here.

de Blasio Slow Speed Press Chase:
Bill de Blasio declined to answer any questions following his remarks at the press conference, leading the press on a several blocks-long, low-intensity, slow speed chase.  It was not as dramatic as some of the Anthony Weiner press chase/avoidance episodes (such as this or this), but it was a notable change for de Blasio.  It’s important to note that he and his staff said several times during the walk that de Blasio intended to answer questions at a 2:00 p.m. endorsement press conference in Queens, and he did so.  Here’s a portion of the chase.

Lhota/deBlasio Remarks at Press Conference:

Here are Lhota’s and de Blasio’s full remarks at the JCRC press conference.

de Bronx de clares for de Blasio



The Bronx Democratic County Committee endorsed Bill de Blasio for mayor this evening.  It was unsurprising, but continued a week of positive consolidation as de Blasio garners endorsements from primary rivals and their supporters.  The Bronx County organization supported  Bill Thompson in the primary, and they had no real option but endorsing de Blasio in the general election.  While the County Committee’s electoral influence may be modest, it’s still a plus for de Blasio as his erstwhile rivals continue to fall in behind him, smiling and singing his praises as they present a unified front to the press and the public.  In contrast, Joe Lhota has yet to receive an endorsement from either of his two primary rivals.  (What Lhota really needs is not just their endorsement, but for John Catsimatidis to fund a material independent expenditure effort, but that’s for a later look.)

Here is the full video of de Blasio’s press conference following his meeting with the Bronx County Committee.

Election Law Reforms – Part I



We spoke with election law expert, and New York State Assembly Member, Brian Kavanagh concerning the New York City Board of Elections and possible steps to improve  the Board’s performance.  An attorney, Kavanagh has been active in the Assembly as chair of the Election Day Operations and Voter Disenfranchisement Subcommittee and a member of the Election Law Committee and as an advocate for improving the voting process.  I began by asking Kavanagh what voters should fairly expect from the Board of Elections.

Lhota on the Street – Upper East Side Edition (Updated)



Today Joe Lhota campaigned at a subway stop on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.  At 77th Street & Lexington Avenue, the stop has a heavy flow of voters who, if Lhota is to prevail, Lhota must connect with.

Update – Lhota Press Conference:

Here is Joe Lhota’s full media availability, at the conclusion of his campaign stop.

Among the topics he addressed:

  • Dean Skelos, and Lhota’s view of Skelos’s policies vis-a-vis New York City
  • His relationship w/ Dan Isaacs, Manhattan Republican Chair, who campaigned with Lhota today
  • Public poll results showing him far behind Bill de Blasio
  • The effect of the hard-fought primary, and whether his primary rivals will support/endorse him
  • The MTA and it’s ongoing work, and how that affects Lhota’s campaign

 

Dean Skelos;

During a press availability following his campaigning, I asked Lhota about State Senate Temporary President/Republican Conference Leader Dean Skelos.  In a statement on Tuesday, Lhota announced that Skelos and former governor George Pataki, both of whom supported John Catsimatidis in the primary, have endorsed Lhota.  In his statement, Lhota described them as “true examples of sensible and responsible governing” and “great New York leaders”.  As Temporary President/Republican Conference Leader in the Senate (not “Majority Leader” as referenced in Lhota’s statement) Skelos has often acted in ways that most New York City residents would consider against their interests, including elimination of the commuter tax, blocking a vote on a fracking ban and pushing school aid formulas to benefit suburban districts over the City.  His kind words toward Skelos illustrate a major challenge for Lhota.  Dramatically behind in public polls, Lhota needs to tend to Republican Party faithful while trying to find an opening with City voters whose views differ markedly from the suburban/rural dominated state Republican Party.