de Blasio In de Bronx (Updated)

Bill de Blasio visited the true forgotten borough of New York City politics today, holding a noisy and crowded news conference under the el at Fordham Road and Jerome Avenue in the Bronx.


The press conference started with an assist from Rep. Charles Rangel, who appears to have some experience in front of a noisy crowd.

Update – Full Press Conference:

Here is the complete press conference, rumbling trains and all.

Rocky v. Rocky (Updated)

Last night, in the final 2013 mayoral debate, Joe Lhota and Bill de Blasio both claimed the mantle of Rocky Balboa.  Hosted by WNBC-TV and co-sponsored by NBC New York, Telemundo Nueva York, The Wall Street Journal and the New York City Campaign Finance Board, the debate was a free flowing affair featuring some serious discussion and some personal irritation.  While not a nasty affair, it nonetheless had both candidates displaying frustration and irritation: Lhota at his lack of attention and momentum against what he views as a vastly less qualified opponent, and de Blasio at his going-nowhere opponent constantly painting him as “dangerous” and talking about David Dinkins and the city’s ’80s & early ’90s troubles.

Lhota Q&A:

As Lhota walked in for his post-debate Q&A the press pack converged in on him, prompting some audible consternation and a little shoving.  The early crush of attention dissolved a few minutes later, however, as Bill de Blasio came into the far side of the large room.  Like ball bearings to a more powerful magnet, the press pack around Lhota suddenly thinned, drawn by the more potent presence across the room.

Here is most of Lhota’s Q&A.  Although I stayed with Lhota longer than most of the press, I moved to de Blasio as a Czech TV reporter began asking Lhota about his Czech heritage.

Update – de Blasio Q&A:

Beach 130th Street

In this video we’ve compiled clips of the beach and nearby homes on Beach 130th Street in Belle Harbor.  The clips start in early November 2012, just after Sandy struck and end this afternoon, exactly one year since Sandy.  There is great progress from the flat beach and battered homes in the initial video, but even today there is still much to be done.

The clips are from B-roll that I’ve taken on some my visits to B130th Street over the past year.  While there is far more to the recovery then shown in these clips, on this block and throughout Rockaway, they show a meaningful part of the story.

We’ve also published a couple of reports focused in whole or part on B130th Street, including here and here.

Surfer Joe (Updated x 2)

Today in Breezy Point residents commemorated the one year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy with a public ceremony and a volunteer effort at planting dune grass on a long sand dune that residents recently created.  Many elected officials and candidates, including Joe Lhota, Phil Goldfeder, Joe Addabbo, Eric Ulrich, Tish James, Scott Stringer and John Liu attended.

As we walked from the ceremony toward the ocean and the dune, I asked Joe Lhota whether he likes going to the beach for fun.  Turns out that he loves the ocean and loves to surf.


In the past three days, both mayoral candidates have talked sports in Breezy Point.  Sunday, Bill de Blasio received a less-than-welcome invitation to play basketball while visiting Breezy Point.

Update #2 – Lhota Press Q&A:

After planting dune grass, Joe Lhota spoke with the press.  He sought to keep the focus on Sandy recovery, but also made some revealing comments about his decision to run and some of the tactical considerations in his campaign.  He declined to criticize Bill de Blasio’s absence from Rockaway today, saying that there are many places and ways to commemorate the anniversary of Sandy and that he is “not going to use this as a day to politic.”

Lhota spoke very highly of the Blooomberg administration’s resiliency plans, describing the Plan NYC report as a “great roadmap” and an important part of Mayor Bloomberg’s legacy.

He seemed genuinely surprised by a reporter asking why he hasn’t done more to campaign on his role in recovery from both Sandy and the September 11th attacks, saying that he is “running on the future, not running on the past” and that “glorifying tragedies is not something that I think is important in campaigning.”  He added, perhaps naively, that “I think everyone knows what I did.”

Lhota also gave a detailed look at his decision to run for mayor and his related discussions with Governor Cuomo.

40 Years In The Making, Arverne East Moves Forward

80 empty oceanfront acres waiting for development – what could be hard about that?

In the case of Arverne East, a large vacant parcel of land in Rockaway, it’s been 40 years of challenges.  In modern times, the 2008 recession deflated the last real effort at development.  Paradoxically, Hurricane Sandy, which inundated the area, spurred the site developers to restart their efforts.  Their efforts have meshed with Mayor Bloomberg’s renewed determination to encourage waterfront development, producing significant progress.  As we reported in May, the Bloomberg administration organized a design competition seeking proposals incorporating the best ideas for resilient waterfront development.  This past week, a winning design was selected and announced at an onsite ceremony.  (The winning design is here.)

In this report, we look at the winning design with the lead designer, discuss major challenges and timing with the City commissioner in charge of the process and consider financing needs and timing with the lead developer.

de Blasio In Breezy Point (Updated)

Bill de Blasio visited Rockaway’s Breezy Point today, seeing Sandy recovery progress firsthand.

As part of his visit, de Blasio met with a small group of community leaders in Breezy Point.  The discussion (during the portion the press was allowed in, at least) focused on some longterm challenges for Rockaway, including rebuilding and the powerful economic issue of flood insurance, both it’s pricing and it’s applicability.  Changes underway, in part the result of the Biggert-Waters Act, and changes in the National Flood Insurance Program, may have profound consequences for Rockaway and other waterfront areas.  The answers aren’t easy, or even apparent yet for some questions.

Press Q&A:

Here is de Blasio’s full Q&A with the press.

Update – Beware the Basketball Invite:

In a lighthearted (we think) moment, Kevin Boyle invited mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio to join a 50+ basketball league organized by the Graybeards.  de Blasio wisely deferred on agreeing to give angry Yankee and Giant fans an opportunity for revenge.

Lhota Stays on the Attack

Today Joe Lhota held a press conference to express his support for charter schools.  It’s a clear distinction between himself and Bill de Blasio, who despite some recent tone changes, is decidedly unfriendly towards charter schools.

Lhota took press questions on a variety of topics, including charters, independent election expenditures and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling issued yesterday, Ray Kelly, P-Tech and the president’s visit, whether as mayor he would substantially change the way that DOE interacts with charter schools and whether he has any former schools chancellors or other school leaders whom he views as good models or examples of what he would like his schools chancellor to do.

Among his responses: condemning Bill de Blasio for “hypocrisy” in criticizing the court ruling allowing expanded independent expenditure funding but benefiting from such spending, including a reported $1 million ad buy by the United Federation of Teachers.  Lhota’s attacks included asking, concerning de Blasio and the UFT, “how far down does Bill sit in their pocket?”  Lhota also expressed a fear, should de Blasio win, of “watching the UFT pick his pocket” in contract negotiations.

Here is the full Q & A portion of the press conference.

Lhota In East Flatbush (Updated x 2)

As a former senior deputy to Rudy Giuliani, Joe Lhota has frequently been asked about Giuliani and Lhota’s time as his budget director and deputy mayor.  Lhota speaks highly of Giuliani and, as the de Blasio v. Lhota election has at times morphed into a rerun of Dinkins v. Giuliani, enthusiastically promoted the Giuliani legacy.  Giuliani was in many ways an extremely successful mayor, overseeing a dramatic improvement in public safety and more broadly restoring the sense that the City was governable.   Lhota rightly extolls those accomplishments, fairly claiming a degree of credit for them and arguing that he will govern in that mold.

Lhota seems largely unable to simultaneously deal with the negative aspect of Giuliani’s legacy, however, muddling the effectiveness of his pitch to voters from the Giuliani era.  Giuliani was a powerful personality who belittled and excoriated those who opposed him, often looking like a bully.  As his term drew to a close he was washed up as a political leader, the public exhausted by the endless operatic drama and glad to see him go.  Redeemed by his extraordinary response to the September 11th attacks, Giuliani’s negatives have been largely ignored since he left office.  They’re present in the 2013 mayoral discussion however, both overtly and beneath the surface, generating a visceral rejection in many voters.  Lhota appears unwilling or unable to deal with that negative reaction, but unless he can better separate the positive and negative strands of the Giuliani legacy Lhota seems unlikely to fully capitalize on the positive Giuliani legacy.

I asked Lhota about it today at a press conference in East Flatbush.

Update – Personality Glimpses:

Here are two very brief clips displaying a bit of Lhota’s personality. In the first, he brusquely dismisses a question asking how he would have managed his campaign differently (noting in fairness to Lhota, election day is still 12 days away).  In the second, a brief quip illustrates his dry humor.

Update #2 – Full Press Conference:

Here is video of the full press conference.

Schneiderman on the Moreland Commission

In July, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman joined with Governor Cuomo in appointing a “Commission to Investigate Public Corruption” under the Moreland Act and Executive Law section 63(8), with Attorney General Schneiderman deputizing each of the commission members as a deputy attorney general.   Doing so gave the commission a broader legal reach, as well adding the attorney general’s imprimatur to the governor’s effort.

In recent weeks, news reports have chronicled efforts by the governor’s staff to stop the issuance of subpoenas to entities viewed as friendly to the governor.  At a press conference yesterday I asked Attorney General Schneiderman when he became aware of such efforts by the governor’s staff and what his reaction was.  He largely avoided answering, describing his role as limited to deputizing the commissioners and “to provide whatever support the co-chairs ask for.”  Schneiderman noted that “I’m not involved in this on a day to day basis” and concluded by saying that “as far as I can tell they’re doing their job.”  (Schneiderman spoke at a press conference with New York City Public Advocate, and mayoral candidate, Bill de Blasio pushing for theft-deterring “kill switches” in smart phones.)

de Blasio, Crown Heights & 2013

On Thursday, both mayoral candidates addressed the Crown Heights riots through the prism of Bill de Blasio’s tenure as a junior city hall staffer.  By de Blasio’s description, he was working in City Hall on those days and received an unspecified number of phone calls from concerned community leaders.  He further says, however, that as a junior staff member he was not actively engaged in responding to the rioting.  Lhota has seized upon de Blasio’s receipt of phone calls without further engagement as evidence of de Blasio’s lack of readiness to govern the city.

There is much to unravel in the current discussion of this ugly 20 year old chapter in the City’s history, particularly the inverted resuscitation of the bitter Dinkins/Giuliani rivalry.  Giuliani, of course, redeemed his initial loss by besting Dinkins in their second and final mayoral election and is widely viewed as having rescued the City from the long-running street crime epidemic that continued into the Dinkins era.  In the 2013 inverted edition, however, it is the Dinkins junior staffer who is electorally crushing the once high-ranking Giuliani aide.  Forgotten by much of the City, the riots nonetheless remain a paradigmatic moment for the man elected in part on public revulsion of the City’s response to the riots and for his former deputy.  Whether that former Giuliani deputy can transform the failures of 1991 into 2013 electoral gain remains unanswered.

Lhota Talks

Joe Lhota spoke with the press today, following a visit to the Young at Heart Senior Center at Regina Pacis, on 65th Street in Dyker Heights.

Among the topics Lhota discussed were his fundraising, Bill de Blasio’s role in city government during the Crown Heights riots of 1991 and how Lhota may close the enormous gap between de Blasio’s and Lhota’s electoral chances as shown by recent public polls.