Eric Garner March (Updated)



Several thousand people marched from the site of Eric Garner’s death past the Richmond County District Attorney’s office, ending at a rally overlooking New York Harbor.  Organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton, the march and rally was about the Garner case and demands for criminal prosecution of the police officers involved, but also about broader complaints and concerns around policing and racial discrimination in New York and throughout the country.

Among the elected officials I spotted: Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Members Helen Rosenthal, Jumaane Williams, Carlos Menchaca, Daneek Miller, Ydanis Rodriguez, Vanessa Gibson, State Senators Adriano Espaillat and Gustavo Rivera and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.  Mayor de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Tish James were not there.  Former Governor David Paterson joined, marching with Rev. Sharpton.  Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout was also there.

Update – Teachout:

We asked Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout why she was attending the march and her answer touched on stop & frisk, broken windows policing and Andrew Cuomo’s decision to go fishing.  We spoke with Teachout in the Staten Island ferry terminal as she headed to the march.

(Flashing neon signs produced ever-changing colors and brightness on Teachout as we spoke.)

Melissa Mark-Viverito:

We spoke with Speaker Mark-Viverito on the ferry ride to the march.  I asked her why she was going and what she hoped the march would accomplish:

Rockaway Ferry Supporters Rally At City Hall (Updated)



Rockaway ferry service supporters came to City Hall Thursday evening to urge Mayor de Blasio to continue operating the service past it’s scheduled October cessation.  Initiated in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy while the A train was out of service for months, the ferry is subsidized by the City at an annual cost of approximately $6 million.  The City calculates that the subsidy is at least $25 per passenger/trip.  The de Blasio administration had continued the Bloomberg administration’s short term ferry funding, but has announced that the subsidy will end in October.

The rally featured two citywide elected officials, Scott Stringer and Tish James, as well as Assembly Member Phil Goldfeder, State Senator Joe Addabbo, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Council Members Eric Ulrich and Vincent Gentile.

The Rockaway peninsula’s physical separation from the rest of the City is matched by a sense of political separation.  It’s particularly so in the neighborhoods which most use the ferry, with many residents believing that City Hall is not looking out for them.  Those western neighborhoods, such as Belle Harbor and Breezy Point, overwhelmingly voted for Joe Lhota in 2013 and have little in the way of a political relationship with Bill de Blasio.

de Blasio Departs:

Mayor de Blasio left City Hall during the rally, passing just behind the rally as he headed toward his car.  Rallygoers took note, loudly chanting and calling out to him, but his only acknowledgment or engagement with them was a small wave as he moved past.  The mayor continued talking with an aide, ignoring the chants of “no ferry, no votes.”  Unfortunately for the ferry supporters, he did okay in his last election without their votes.

Update – Elected Officials Speak:

Here are the remarks of the elected officials:

Hochul On The Street



We joined Democratic Lieutenant Governor candidate Kathy Hochul Tuesday evening at a campaign event on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.  Hochul appeared at the 72nd Street/Broadway subway stop, greeting people emerging from the station.

We discussed the subway, the Buffalo area native’s experience campaigning in New York City, whether the “Women’s Equality Party” is a sham or a stunt and whether she’s considered a future possibility that the United States Attorney for the Western District of New York, her husband William J. Hochul, could investigate state government generally or the Executive Chamber particularly.

Bertha Lewis Endorses Teachout & Wu (Updated x 2)



Activist and de Blasio ally Bertha Lewis today endorsed Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu for governor and lieutenant governor.  Lewis joined Teachout and Wu at a press conference outside the Brooklyn courthouse where arguments were heard today in Cuomo’s appeal of a state supreme court ruling that Teachout meets the residency requirements for governor set forth in the state constitution.

Lewis, a long time activist who headed ACORN until it’s dissolution, was highly critical of Governor Cuomo.  She was also critical, albeit while emphasizing their continuing close relationship, of Mayor de Blasio’s efforts at helping Cuomo win the Working Families Party nomination.

Here are excerpts from Lewis’s opening statement and the Q&A:

Update – Israel:

Teachout was twice asked about Israel; once about Governor Cuomo’s recent visit and once about Israel’s broad challenges.  She avoided answering both times, immediately pivoting to discussions of the election, Governor Cuomo and debates.

Update – Full Q&A:

Here is the full Q&A:

Republican Comptroller Candidate Bob Antonacci



Here’s your chance to get to know the lesser-known candidate in the least-known statewide election of 2014.

With little money or name recognition, New York State Republican Comptroller nominee Robert Antonacci faces long odds in November against Democratic incumbent Tom DiNapoli.  A Siena College poll released today gives incumbent Tom DiNapoli a 58-24 advantage over Antonacci.  Antonacci, who goes by Bob, also faces a funding disadvantage, reporting just $75,000 on hand as of July 11th.

Antonacci is the first candidate to participate in New York State’s recently enacted campaign financing program.  Modeled after New York City’s campaign finance program, it applies only to candidates for state comptroller.  To receive any matching funds, however, a candidate must raise $200,000 from 2,000 New York donors contributing $10-$175 each.  As of July 11th, Antonacci’s total raised was well below half of that threshold amount and he may not qualify for any state matching funds, further limiting his already modest campaign.

An attorney and accountant, Antonacci was elected Onondaga County Comptroller in 2007, and is now in his 7th year in office.  He first ran for office in 2003, losing, but returned to run again and win in 2007, with reelection in 2011.  We recently spoke with Antonacci as he visited Breezy Point, at the tip of the Rockaway Peninsula, with Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino.  It was my first time meeting him and I began by asking how he came to first run for elective office.

P.S.  Antonacci is, as far we know, the only candidate with a human bobble head doppelgänger.  (His human bobble head doppelgänger also has a second twitter identity – the doppelganger’s doppelgänger perhaps.)  We only learned of this after our interview – we’ll be bringing you more on this soon.

Hochul On The Upper West Side (Updated)



Kathy Hochul, Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor, was joined at an Upper West Side rally today by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and a group of Manhattan Democratic elected officials that included Congressman Charles B. Rangel, Assembly Members Keith Wright and Linda Rosenthal, Council Members Dan Garodnick and Inez Dickens and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

The rally promoted the “Women’s Equality Party”, a ballot line created by Governor Cuomo   and which asserts that it’s purpose is to “promote issues that are critical to women and our communities.”

Update – Hochul:

What’s lacking in the Democratic Party that leads you to create a new ballot line?  I asked Hochul:

Here is Hochul’s full, albeit brief, speech.  She begins by thanking House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for attending, noting that in Hochul’s 2011 special election “I hadn’t met you yet, but according to all the TV ads by the Koch brothers and Karl Rove you would have thought we were shopping buddies.”  David Koch, one of those same Koch brothers, is a substantial contributor to Hochul’s running mate, Governor Andrew Cuomo.  David Koch and his his wife Julia have given Andrew Cuomo a combined $87,000 according to state Board of Elections records.  (Here’s a flashback to Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota discussing David Koch’s contributions to Andrew Cuomo.)

Charles B. Rangel:

Congressman Rangel attended, giving a speech in support of Hochul.  He gave a particularly memorable performance afterwards, however.  From quizzing a New York Observer reporter as to whether he really works for the NY Post to reacting with playful shock at the sight of another reporter who extensively covered Rangel’s recent congressional primary, Rangel parried, attacked and laughed, all while defending Andrew Cuomo.  Here’s his full press availability:

de Blasio Press Q&A: The Return to Red Hook Edition



Mayor Bill de Blasio visited the Red Hook Initiative this afternoon, holding a press conference to urge New Yorkers to prepare for future hurricanes and other disasters.  This was de Blasio’s second press conference at the Red Hook Initiative.

Disaster Response Responsibilities:

I asked the mayor whether he plans on any significant changes in the allocation of disaster response responsibilities among City agencies or on the structure of those agencies with respect to disaster response:

Press Q&A:

On topic questions included the post-Sandy status of  NYCHA repairs and whether the mayor is making any changes in the allocation of disaster response duties and responsibilities among City agencies.  Off topic questions focused mostly on the Eric Garner case, and especially the role of the Rev. Al Sharpton generally and in the mayoral round table discussion yesterday.

Sandy Recovery, Continued



Faith In New York and the Alliance For A Just Rebuilding held a Sandy recovery forum Tuesday evening.  Government officials participating included Amy Peterson, Director of the Office of Housing Recovery, Public Advocate Tish James, Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs Nisha Agarwal and Council Members Donovan Richards, Mark Treyger and Carlos Menchaca.

While not ignoring individual homeowners and their rebuilding needs, Faith In New York primarily focuses on a different segment of Sandy victims.  It’s constituents tend to be renters, many in NYCHA and many undocumented.  Their needs, and Faith In New York’s resulting focus, differ significantly in many respects from individual homeowners.

Amy Peterson:

Here are Amy Peterson’s remarks and two separate, albeit brief, question & answer segments that she participated in with the forum hosts.  Peterson oversees the Build It Back program, which focuses on assisting individual homeowners on rebuilding.  At this forum, however, the greatest interest was on a separate aspect of her responsibilities, stimulating job creation in Sandy-affected areas and pushing those jobs toward local residents.  Peterson began her remarks by pledging to use Sandy recovery funding “to also rebuild peoples lives through workforce development” and noted her professional background in doing so.

Concerning Build It Back, Peterson expressed confidence in the Mayor’s stated goal of having 500 reimbursement checks issued and 500 construction starts by Labor Day.  In a conversation after the forum, we spoke about the range of issues that differently affect the many Sandy-damaged neighborhoods.  When I asked Peterson which of those issues seems most intractable, she paused and then replied that while so many are “certainly complicated”, “all … are solvable.”

Music:

The forum included some great music.  Here’s one song, beautifully performed by the Christ Church International choir.

Prior coverage of Faith In New York’s Sandy-related work is here and here.

Astorino Attacks (Updated)



Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino attacked Governor Andrew Cuomo’s handling of the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption, asserting that “I believe Governor Cuomo committed a crime.”  According to Astorino, Governor Cuomo’s apparent failure to pass along evidence of wrongdoing to appropriate law enforcement authorities violated section 63(8) of the Executive Law.  Astorino called for a special prosecutor to investigate the matter, although he was vague on some of the details around a special prosecutor.

Press Conference:

Here is Astorino’s full press conference, which begins with his statement that “I believe Governor Cuomo committed a crime.”

Update – Signholders:

Some silent signholders appeared this morning, holding anti-Astorino posters and attempting to avoid having their identity revealed.  On July 22nd, a similar group appeared at a joint Astorino/Zephyr Teachout press conference, holding signs and doing a little weak heckling.  On July 25th, Colin Campbell and Hunter Walker of Business Insider followed a similar group after a Zephyr Teachout press conference, reporting on their apparent ties to the Cuomo campaign.  At today’s press conference, the signholders stood well back before the press conference, walking away when I approached them.  The group then stood silently during the press conference, with lowering their signs a couple of inches more as their only response when asked where they’re from.

It’s an odd effort; not really disruptive or distracting to the candidates they’re shadowing, their farcical attempts at subterfuge reflect poorly on their apparent patron.

Pro-Israel Rally (Updated x 2)



As the war between Israel and Hamas continues, New York Jewish organizations organized a large rally in support of Israel.  Held today in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, just across from the United Nations, the rally featured many elected officials.  Among those participating were Senator Chuck Schumer, Representatives Eliot Engel, Steve Israel, Nydia Velazquez, Grace Meng and Hakeem Jeffries, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Dan Garodnick.  Other elected officials attending, but not participating in the program, were Assembly Members Phil Goldfeder, David Weprin, Richard Gottfried, Nily Rozic, Ed Braunstein and Chuck Lavine, and Council Member Mark Weprin.

The rally varied significantly from the July 14th press conference organized by some of the same groups.  Today’s event was a rally, with a large crowd (claimed by organizers to be 15,000), while the July 14th event was a press conference without a substantial crowd of supporters.  The July 14th press conference was held on the steps of City Hall and counter-demonstrators, while kept outside of City Hall’s gates, shouted at and over the press conference.  Today’s rally was so large, and in a differently configured location, that any protests/counter-demonstrators were inaudible at the rally.

Hakeem Jeffries:

We’ll start our coverage with the barn burner of a speech from Brooklyn Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries.

Update – Protest:

Here’s our look at the reception given to a group of anti-Israel counter-demonstrators.

Update #2 – New York Elected Officials:

Here’s a highlight reel with excerpts from the speeches of New York elected officials:

Bob Rob & Bob



Former Congressman Bob Turner hosted Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino and Republican comptroller candidate Bob Antonacci this afternoon for a press conference at Turner’s home in Breezy Point.  Astorino focused on a favored theme:  that Governor Andrew Cuomo has wrongfully used approximately $40 million of Hurricane Sandy relief funding for thinly disguised political ads promoting Cuomo.

Turner, elected to replace Anthony Weiner, was winding down his one term in Congress when Sandy struck.  More than 100 homes, including Turner’s, were destroyed by a fire that raged through Breezy Point as Sandy’s storm surge struck.  The homes behind Astorino, Antonacci and Turner are newly rebuilt, replacing some of the homes destroyed by that fire.

During the Q&A portion of the press conference (which begins at about 4:00) I asked Astorino questions about other Sandy-related topics, including his view of the overall response to Sandy by New York State government and whether he would do anything differently concerning the NYS Department of Financial Services and it’s regulation of insurance companies, which he would control as governor.  Astorino appeared unwilling, or unable, to move on to other Sandy-related topics, staying focused on Governor Cuomo’s use of federal relief money for TV advertising.  The Q&A began with my question of why Astorino’s fellow Republicans, in the state senate, have permitted Cuomo’s use of Sandy money as condemned by Astorino.

Note:  Astorino held a separate press conference this morning, with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout, available here.

The Nemesis of My Nemesis …



In an unusual joint news conference today, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout denounced Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “corruption”.  Emphasizing their many political and policy differences, the two aspiring political opponents of Governor Cuomo attacked a variety of Cuomo’s actions and his opaque political methods.

The news conference also featured a group, presumably pro-Cuomo, holding signs and heckling both candidates.  As you’ll see, during the Q&A the group moved from behind the press, and facing the candidates, to just off to the side of the candidates.  They refused to answer when asked who they were and where they’re from.

Press Q&A:

Among the question topics were what more Governor Cuomo should have done before disbanding the Moreland Commission on public corruption, how Astorino feels about NJ Governor, and chair of the Republican Governors Association, Chris Christie “writing you off”, whether they believe Christie and Cuomo have an “arrangement” concerning Christie’s lack of support for Astorino, what “assurances” of support Christie gave to Astorino when they met, how this joint press conference came to be, how many debates they hope to have and Astorino’s take on Christie campaigning in New Hampshire but not New York.  Here is their joint press Q&A:

de Blasio Press Q&A: The Building It Back Edition



Today Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference promoting his administration’s advances in the Build It Back program.  Created to assist homeowners in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Build It Back was immediately mired in bureaucratic quicksand, producing virtually no assistance to any homeowners by the close of the Bloomberg administration.  Although the program continued to drift in the early months of the de Blasio administration, it has markedly accelerated its efforts since the late March hiring of Amy Peterson as Director of the Office of Housing Recovery.

The mayor has set a Build It Back goal of 500 construction starts and issuing 500 reimbursement checks by Labor Day.  While modest compared to the estimated 20,000 or more homeowners who could be helped under the program, that’s a dramatic improvement from the program’s first year in which virtually no homeowners received such assistance.  In today’s press conference, the mayor announced that Build It Back has had 132 construction starts and issued 397 reimbursement checks.

Preparation for the Next Storm:

I asked Mayor de Blasio whether he has examined, and made any significant changes in,  the City’s emergency management system in anticipation of future storms:

Eric Ulrich:

Council Member Eric Ulrich, one of only three Republicans in the City Council and whose Sandy-impacted district includes part of Rockaway, Broad Channel and Howard Beach, spoke briefly:

Press Q&A:

On topic questions included funding for items in the City’s SIRR report and whether there is an alternative source for such items, whether the mayor is satisfied with the pace of City spending of federal money for Sandy relief, whether the mayor is confident of reaching his 500 construction starts and 500 reimbursement checks by Labor Day, Comptroller Scott Stringer’s report on a lack of oversight on spending by the Department of Homeless Services, whether the City has the “right formula” for Build It Back, the total number of homes damaged by Sandy and when all will reached through Build It Back, how many of the 132 construction starts to date are repairs and how many are rebuilds and whether the mayor has closely examined the City’s emergency management system in the context of preparing for a future coastal storm.

Off topic questions the Long Island Railroad and possible strike, the City’s contingency plans and role in the event of a strike, whether the petitions supporting continued operation of horse carriages, with 40,000 signatures recently delivered to City Hall affect his thinking on the topic, what the 66 donors to Campaign for One New York expect from the mayor, whether he plans to take any additional vacations this year, what initiatives Campaign for One New York will next focus on, the status of the review of the 911 system upgrade and, concerning his trip to Italy, whether he is packed, whether he’s packing his own bags and what food he is most looking forward to.