de Blasio Press Q&A: The 2nd Avenue Investigation Edition

This afternoon Mayor Bill de Blasio and many of his senior staff provided an update on the Second Avenue buildings destroyed yesterday in an apparent gas explosion.  Joined by Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro, OEM Commissioner Joseph Esposito, NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce, Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler and other officials, de Blasio described the known facts, but repeatedly emphasized that the cause is not yet known and that the investigation will take at least several days to complete.

Opening statements:

Here are the opening statements of Mayor de Blasio, Fire Commissioner Nigro and OEM Commissioner Esposito:


Here is the full Q&A:

de Blasio On Renewing Mayoral Control

The no-names battle between Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo continues, with the current chapter focused on mayoral control of city schools.  At a press conference Wednesday Mayor de Blasio was asked whether Governor Cuomo’s characterization of mayoral control of schools as an “experiment” and his proposal that mayoral control be renewed for a shortened three year period “raises questions about whether or not he’s a true reformer on education.”  de Blasio gave a forceful argument in support of extending mayoral control, but did not directly address the question’s characterization of Governor Cuomo nor mention Governor Cuomo by name.

A Tale of Two Mayors

In an unusual moment of agreement Mayor Bill de Blasio and former mayor Rudy Giuliani recently wrote a joint letter to Governor Cuomo and the state legislature urging a continuation of mayoral control of the school system.  de Blasio and Giuliani have mostly had critical things to say about each other, with their joint letter a rare counterpoint to their more typical criticism.  I asked Mayor de Blasio whether the letter signaled a change in their relationship or whether de Blasio’s 15 months in office has affected his view of Giuliani’s mayoralty.

Donovan v. Gentile – The Virtual Edition (Updated)

Congressional candidates Dan Donovan and Vincent Gentile separately answered questions at a Staten Island candidate forum Monday evening.  With a little editing we present their head-to-head answers on a few select questions.

The forum, sponsored by “The Middle Class Action Project“, featured the candidates in sequential appearances.  Both candidates were asked an identical set of questions, heavily focused on manufacturing, international trade, unions and workers rights.  The forum also had a candidate dispute over the format, with Gentile asserting that it was originally intended as a debate and was changed at Donovan’s insistence to separate, sequential appearances.  Donovan’s staff insisted that was not true.

The following video excerpts combine Donovan’s and Gentile’s respective answers to specific questions.

Fast Track Trade Agreements & TPP:

The candidates were asked if they “support fast track trade authority”, both generally and specifically concerning the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.  Both opposed fast track trade authority.  Donovan expressed general discomfort, saying that “we shouldn’t fast track anything.”  Gentile focused on the usurpation of congressional authority inherent in such fast tracking.  Both expressed opposition to the TPP, although Donovan seemed less familiar with it, ending with a general statement that “all agreements … should be fair to America.”  Gentile, who has sought to make the TPP a campaign issue, went through a list of reasons he opposes it.

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Gentile On Being In The Minority

Should Democratic candidate Vincent Gentile win the upcoming 11th congressional district special election he will join a lopsided minority in the House of Representatives.  With a current division of 245 Republicans and 188 Democrats (and 2 vacancies) Democrats are decidedly out-of-power in the House and Gentile would face significant challenges in accomplishing any of his legislative goals.  I asked Gentile about this, with a followup question on his view of Nancy Pelosi.  We spoke at a forum Monday evening hosted by the Middle Class Action Project.

Republican Candidate On Republican Presidential Hopefuls

With close to 20 aspiring presidential candidates Republicans have a wide range of personalities, experience and ideology to choose from as their presidential selection process moves forward.  With such a wide range of options, a presidential selection can provide a worthwhile window into a voter’s views.

“I’ve never met any of the possible candidates” replied Republican congressional hopeful Dan Donovan when I asked whether he favors any of the many candidates.  When I asked if that included former New York governor George Pataki Donovan modified his answer, pointing out (correctly) that Pataki says he’s not yet a candidate despite repeated recent visits to New Hampshire and Iowa.  (Pataki has said that he’s “likely to become a candidate.”)
Here’s what Donovan had to say:

We spoke at a press conference Wednesday at which Donovan received the endorsement of the MTA Bridge and Tunnel Officers Benevolent Association.

Donovan v. Gentile: Is It Personal?

Electoral opponents Republican Dan Donovan and Democrat Vincent Gentile are elected officials who serve neighboring districts, Donovan as Staten Island district attorney and Gentile as a council member who’s district includes the Brooklyn side of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.  As a state senator Gentile represented part of Staten Island, albeit before Donovan was elected to office.

What’s the nature of their pre-campaign relationship?  Here’s what Donovan had to say.  We spoke at a press conference today where Donovan received the endorsement of the MTA Bridge and Tunnel Officers Benevolent Association.

NYPD Unions Endorse Donovan in CD 11 Special Election

The NYPD’s Captains Endowment Association and Lieutenants Benevolent Association endorsed Republican Dan Donovan in the 11th Congressional District special election scheduled for May 5th.  Donovan, as the Staten Island District Attorney, is well known to both unions.

Roy Richter, president of the Captains Endowment Association, cited Donovan’s personal integrity and a long-term reduction (which began before Donovan became DA) in crime on Staten Island.  Both Richter and Lieutenants Benevolent Association president Lou Turco cited September 11th, both with respect to funding for ongoing security and the continuing effort to pass  a reauthorization of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.  Two main programs under the Zadroga Act expire in 2015.

Donovan’s remarks included a moment of silence commemorating the 12th anniversary of the murders of NYPD Detectives James Nemorin and Rodney Andrews (killed on Staten Island), the 22nd anniversary of the death of Detective Luis Lopez (killed during a buy-and-bust operation in Manhattan) and the 29th anniversary of the death of Donovan’s father.  He spoke harshly of the actions of “our government” in telling World Trade Center emergency responders that “it was safe to go there, that the air quality was ok” and now “telling them that we’re not going to fund the healthcare for those brave people,” pledging to push the Zadroga Act reauthorization.

Here are selected excerpts from their statements:

The Q&A included the following:

The two union leaders spoke well of Donovan’s opponent, Democratic Council Member Vincent Gentile, noting that they have endorsed him in his council races.

Donovan avoided any definitive statement on the controversial letter sent by U.S. Senate Republicans to the leaders of Iran.