All posts by John Kenny

Al & Joe, Together Again

That’s the Rev. Al Sharpton and Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota.  Joe Lhota, along with Bill de Blasio and many other elected officials and candidates, went to the National Action Network’s House of Justice to celebrate Rev. Sharpton’s birthday.  (Lhota had visited the House of Justice for a private meeting with Rev. Sharpton about three weeks ago – our report is here.)  Here’s Rev. Sharpton introducing Lhota and Lhota’s full presentation.

A Fiscally Responsible Progressive

Today Bill de Blasio sought to refine his fiscal self-description to “fiscally responsible progressive.”  Speaking on Friday to business leaders at an ABNY breakfast, de Blasio described himself as a “fiscal conservative.”  That description was a surprise to some, but it goes to de Blasio’s possible electoral vulnerability of being portrayed as a wild-eyed spendthrift.  When I asked de Blasio about his “fiscal conservative” self-characterization today, he responded with the refined term and offered a lengthy description of how achieving his goals will require fiscal responsibility, saying that there’s “no contradiction between good fiscal management and an activist government.”

Lhota Attacks

Joe Lhota went on the attack against Bill de Blasio today, as a new Quinnipiac poll showed de Blasio with an enormous lead.

Dana Rubenstein of Capital New York asked Lhota for his view of how Governor Cuomo’s newly announced tax commission, with the assigned mission of finding taxes to cut, affects de Blasio’s signature proposal of funding universal pre-K with an increased income tax on high earners.  Lhota responded by launching into a harsh critique of de Blasio as “essentially a political hack who has no no plans for the future”, and characterizing de Blasio’s stated lack of a “Plan B” if his tax proposal does not received needed state legislative/gubernatorial approval as showing “management immaturity.”

de Blasio Working To Define Lhota

Today Bill de Blasio continued seeking to define Joe Lhota as part and parcel of the radical wing currently dominating the national Republicans, the Tea Party House Republicans.  de Blasio has been hitting that theme for a few days, seeking to define Lhota at a moment where Lhota is still fairly unknown and the Tea Party House Republicans, as the deeply unpopular face of the Republican political brand, are in the national spotlight.

Yesterday, Lhota tried to avoid being linked to the House Republicans, condemning them  for the federal government shutdown and calling it “outrageous and wrong”.  He also described the Tea Party as a “bad force” in the Republican Party.

Today, responding to a question from Politicker’s Ross Barkan, de Blasio continued his effort, describing the current Republican Party as “a very right wing party” and saying of Lhota that “if you’re a member of the Republican Party, you’re buying into the whole idea.”   Team de Blasio smells political blood, and appears focused on framing this city race through the lens of Washington shutdown politics.

Lhota Talks Shutdown, Tea Party, Koch & Cuomo

Today Joe Lhota responded to reporters’ questions about the federal government shutdown by condemning the shutdown and the House Republicans, describing the shutdown as “flat out wrong.”  Lhota also more broadly condemned the Tea Party and it’s influence on the Republican Party.

When I asked about the paradox of condemning the Tea Party but receiving large amounts of money from one of the Tea Party’s most prominent financial backers, David Koch, Lhota responded strongly.  He noted Koch’s many philanthropic endeavors and said that he, like Koch and Bill de Blasio, believes in abortion rights and marriage equality.  Lhota also pointed to Andrew Cuomo having received (according to Lhota) $81,000 from Koch and his wife, asserting that taking Koch’s money did not make Lhota any more of a tea party supporter than doing so made Andrew Cuomo a tea party supporter.

Public Advocate Candidates Conclude

The Democratic race for Public Advocate came to a close Monday night as the two remaining candidates attended their last joint forum.  Letitia James and Daniel Squadron addressed the Bayswater Civic Association, in the Bayswater section of Rockaway.  They spoke separately, crossing paths briefly.  Squadron arrived toward the end of James’ presentation, sitting quietly in the audience.  As James left, they exchanged smiles and a quick wave.

We spoke separately with each, asking the same two questions: First, your thoughts as you close out the last night of a long campaign?  Second, your thoughts on the ugly turn in the race?  Here’s what they had to say.

We began our coverage of the Public Advocate’s race at the first candidate forum, held in Astoria in February, available here.  We have lots of coverage since then, available here.

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.


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.


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: