All posts by John Kenny

Speaker Selection: The Muzzio Edition (Updated x 2)



Wednesday evening, Professor Doug Muzzio moderated a council speaker forum at Baruch College.  Seven contenders participated; Jumaane Williams, Dan Garodnick, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Annabel Palma, James Vacca, Mark Weprin and Inez Dickens.

Karen Koslowitz:

Following the forum, we spoke with Council Member Karen Koslowitz about the race, how it’s shaping up with her fellow council members and when she expects the winner to be identified.  Koslowitz, a Queens Democrat, was elected to office in 2009 and re-elected this year.  She previously served on the Council from 1991-2001.

(Lots more video on the full page.) Continue reading Speaker Selection: The Muzzio Edition (Updated x 2)

Speaker Selection: The Brooklyn Edition (Updated)



Last night the City Council Speaker forum series moved to Brooklyn, picking up a seventh contender with Council Member Jumaane Williams joining in.

After the forum we spoke with Council Member Brad Lander.  Lander is a leading member of the “progessive bloc”, a group of approximately 20 progressive council members who plan to unite behind a single, but as yet undetermined, candidate.  We discussed the forums and their role in an election with only 51 voters, what the progressive bloc seeks, how the selection will unfold and whether the progressive bloc is likely to hold together behind a single candidate.

Update – Carlos Menchaca:

We also spoke with Council Member-elect Carlos Menchaca about the forums and the selection process.  Menchaca is a newly elected member of the City Council who, along with fellow newly elected members Helen Rosenthal, Ritchie Torres and Antonio Reynoso, conceived and organized the public forums.

Speaker Selection: The Bronx Edition (Updated)



Last night, city council speaker contenders met in the Mt. Eden section of the Bronx for the second in a series of five public forums.  Council members Jimmy Vacca, Annabel Palma, Mark Weprin, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Dan Garodnick and Inez Dickens appeared before an energized crowd, in a discussion moderated by BronxTalk radio host Gary Axelbank.

The series of public forums is unprecedented for selection of the city council speaker.  The city council speaker is not elected by voters, but is selected by the 51 members of the city council without any direct role for the public.  Several newly elected council members, including Ritchie Torres and Helen Rosenthal, conceived and organized the series in an effort to change, or at least expand, the way the speaker is selected.  We spoke with Torres and Rosenthal about their purpose in doing so and whether the forums have, so far, met their goals. Continue reading Speaker Selection: The Bronx Edition (Updated)

Speaker Hopefuls First Forum



On Thursday evening, five City council members hoping to succeed Christine Quinn as Council Speaker participated in a public forum.  It was an unusual event, held for an office that only the 51 members of the next council will vote for yet mirroring the format of forums held for countless public offices.

We spoke with each of the five participating council members: Dan Garodnick, Mark Weprin, Annabel Palma, Jimmy Vacca and Melissa Mark-Viverito.  I asked each the same question: what do they think of the Speaker Quinn/Mayor Bloomberg relationship and do  they see it as a good model their speakership and relationship with Mayor de Blasio.  Here’s how each responded.

Dan Garodnick:

Mark Weprin:

Annabel Palma:

Jimmy Vacca:

Melissa Mark-Viverito:

Lhota’s Election Night (Updated x 2)



Here is the full statement that Joe Lhota made to the press after his concession speech.  The visuals on the concession speech were poor for TV/video cameras, and the campaign provided this additional opportunity for TV/video.

Update – Concession Speech:

Here is Joe Lhota’s concession speech.

Update #2 – Primary Victory Speech:

To complete the record, here is Lhota’s complete primary night victory speech.

Lhota Wraps Up (Updated x 2)



Joe Lhota concluded his campaign today, with his last scheduled campaign event a joint appearance greeting voters with former mayor Rudy Giuliani at 86th Street and Lexington Avenue.  Displaying a sense of relief that the campaign is over, and buoyed by the experienced campaigner accompanying him, Lhota appeared to enjoy his time with voters.  Giuliani reveled in the moment, laughing, smiling and joking as greeted well-wishers and posed for photos.

Update #2 – Rudy Unleashed:

Here’s a special look at Rudy Giuliani’s appearance this morning with Joe Lhota.

Update – Mayor Selfie:

Many people took selfies with Lhota and Giuliani.  Rudy Giuliani, no stranger to having his picture taken, shared some thoughts about self lies.

Press Q&A:

Afterwards, Lhota and Giuliani spoke with the press.  Here is their full Q&A.

Lhota Country



Joe Lhota visited Lhota Country Saturday afternoon; Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village.  Walking a commercial strip for about an hour, he received a friendly, supportive response.  It was modest in quantity as there were not any arranged campaign events or rallies and the street was not particularly busy, but most people were friendly and supportive, with no visible signs of hostility.

Walking Tour:

Here are a few revealing excerpts from Joe Lhota’s walking tour.


Labor Contracts:

A looming issue for the next mayor are the currently expired municipal labor contracts.  With every city municipal labor contract having expired during the Bloomberg administration, unions are expecting new contracts and significant amounts of retroactive pay.  During a Q&A with the press, I asked Lhota about his role in the budget negotiations of 1995/1996.  Those negotiations produced the so-called “double zero” or “zeroes for heroes” labor contracts, which had no increases for two years.  The day before, when campaigning for Lhota on Staten Island, Rudy Giuliani had praised Lhota for his role in those negotiations.

Joe & Rudy (Updated x 2)



Yesterday Rudy Giuliani joined Joe Lhota on the campaign trail, visiting two senior centers in Staten Island.  Giuliani was the dominant presence, touting his record and the changes he wrought on the City as mayor while slamming Bill de Blasio.  He also fired off the occasional plug in support of Joe Lhota.

Giuliani and Lhota held two press conferences, one at each stop.  This excerpt from their first stop, in Great Kills, captures Giuliani’s message.

Update – Zeroes for Heroes:

In this clip, Rudy Giuliani focuses on the importance of an “independent” mayor, describing “20 years of mayors who’ve been able to say, if it was bad for the city, go to hell.”  In describing the value of a “mayor independent of these unions”, Giuliani noted that  Lhota “helped negotiate” the municipal union contracts that included two years of no raises –  the “double zero” or “zeroes for heroes” contracts of 1995 and 1996.

Update #2 – A Changed City:

The Lhota campaign has not fully figured out how to deal with Mayor Bloomberg.  At times Lhota is complimentary of Bloomberg, even highly so.  At other times, on particular issues, Lhota can be highly critical.  Lhota seems pulled between the reality that he needs Bloomberg-likers as the basic component of any winning coalition he could hope to assemble and his need to offer something new or different.  He’s never embraced the role of an unequivocal Bloomberg supporter, and whether a cause or an effect, Bloomberg has reciprocated.

The late reemergence of Mayor Giuliani reminds us of how the city has changed since he left office.  Among the many ways that it’s changed are the city’s demographics, expectations of how government should operate and in where political power rests.

I asked Mayor Giuliani how he thinks the city has changed since he left office, and how he thinks that may affect the next mayor.

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.

Charlie-whistle:

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.

Update:

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.