NYC Electeds Demand Federal Assistance For Puerto Rico (Updated)



IMG_3161New York City’s three citywide elected officials – Mayor Bill de Blasio, Public Advocate Tish James and Comptroller Scott Stringer – and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito joined a press conference today demanding federal action to address Puerto Rico’s deep fiscal and financial crisis.  Puerto Rico’s government and related public authorities owe more than $70 billion to creditors, an amount which Puerto Rico’s governor recently termed “unpayable”, with looming large payments pushing the Commonwealth toward a critical moment.

The City Hall Plaza press conference, hosted by the Hispanic Federation, called for a laundry list of federal actions, including implementing “a federal investment plan”, eliminating Jones Act requirements that goods shipped between Puerto Rico and other places in America be transported on U.S. ships with U.S. crews, changing the U.S. bankruptcy code to allow Puerto Rico and its government related enterprises to file bankruptcy petitions and urging President Obama to “explore a Federal Reserve loan” and “oppose severe austerity.”

Puerto Rico’s crisis is decades in the making.  With a shrinking population and a shrinking economy Puerto Rico has long borrowed to fund operating costs.  As described in a recent report commissioned by the Puerto Rican government, Puerto Rico’s fiscal shortcomings have been masked and ultimately worsened by poor fiscal and accounting practices.

The press conference produced an infrequent appearance of all three citywide elected officials and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito – the “CW3+MMV”, perhaps – at an event.  There appeared to be polite interaction among them, but no sign of great warmth.

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Eid al-Fitr & Eid al-Adha Added To School Holiday Calendar



Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the addition of two Muslim holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, to the New York City school system’s calendar.  They are the first Muslim holidays included on the City school calendar.  It’s a change long-sought by New York’s Muslim community and reflects a Muslim population in the City and it’s schools growing in both number and political influence.

Here are highlights of the press conference:

The full press conference Q&A is available here.

de Blasio On Government Officials & Email Use



“I do my official business on official email” said Mayor Bill de Blasio today when asked whether he uses “private email for public business.”  He also offered strong praise for Hillary Clinton, but did not respond directly to part of the posed question: whether he thinks its “ever appropriate … for a senior government official to rely exclusively on private email.”

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito responded somewhat imprecisely, saying that “there are times when we, yes, when we rely on private email, but we do use our government email.”  Public Advocate Tish James and Council Member Danny Dromm did not respond to the question posed by Matthew Chayes of Newsday.  de Blasio spoke during a press conference announcing the addition of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha as school holidays.

James, Astorino & Bull Connor



At a Cuomo campaign rally in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James compared Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino to Bull Connor, the infamous Commissioner of Public Safety in Birmingham Alabama who unleashed fire hoses and attack dogs on civil rights marchers in the 1960’s.  After the rally I asked Governor Cuomo, who was on stage as James spoke, whether he shared that view.

Cuomo and Astorino have often exchanged barbs around a lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development against Westchester County, where Astorino is County Executive.  Astorino has previously accused Cuomo of “race-baiting” in comments about the lawsuit.

More coverage from the rally is here.

Cuomo in Bed-Stuy (Updated)



Governor Andrew Cuomo’s reelection campaign brought him to three stops today, with the third and final stop a rally in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant.  Accompanied on the full tour by his running mate Kathy Hochul, he was joined in Bed-Stuy by New York City Public Advocate Tish James, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, Assembly Member Annette Robinson and New York City Council Member Robert Cornegy.

Press Q&A:

Cuomo spoke with the press following the rally.  The questions, with one exception (more on that later here), focused on Ebola.

Update:  We look at the comment by Public Advocate Letitia James comparing Rob Astorino to Bull Connor here.

Speech:

Here is Cuomo’s full speech:

Coverage of Cuomo’s Long Island City rally is here.

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:

Rangel’s Last Stop (Updated)



Here are excerpts of Congressman Charles B. Rangel’s press Q&A at his last primary campaign stop, at Tracey Towers in the Bronx:

Rangel on the Press & Campaign Conclusion:

Rangel commented on the campaign press coverage and shared his thoughts on the campaign’s conclusion:

Dancing to Victory:

In this brief clip, Council Member Andy King and Public Advocate Tish James dance while standing on a Rangel sound truck:

de Blasio Press Q&A: The 200,000 Units Edition (Updated x 2)



In a pair of press conferences Mayor Bill de Blasio today unveiled his aggressive affordable housing plan, aiming to create and preserve 200,000 units of housing over 10 years.  In a morning Brooklyn appearance and an afternoon Bronx press conference the mayor discussed his plan at length.

Update #2 – Rangel:

Congressman Charles Rangel, whose district includes the Bronx press conference location, spoke briefly at the Bronx press conference.  While supportive of the mayor, Rangel has called for abandoning the practice of combining luxury and affordable housing and declared “we have no crisis in luxury housing.”

Update – Highlight Reel:

Our highlight reel distills the two full press conferences, with selected excerpts from the initial statements and Q&A portion of both press conferences.

(Full Q&A from both press conferences after the jump)

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de Blasio Press Q&A: The Historic Edition



Late Friday Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference to discuss progress in the effort to keep Long Island College Hospital, or LICH, open.  de Blasio also made a closing statement concerning the imbroglio surrounding his NYPD security detail following a news report that the detail was speeding and rolling through two stop signs as it drove de Blasio away from a press conference Thursday in Maspeth.

The State University of New York (SUNY) controls LICH, and has been trying to sell or close the money-losing operation.  On Friday, de Blasio announced that SUNY and Governor Cuomo have agreed to a new round of bidding from prospective buyers.  This additional RFP will have a revised weighting in the scoring and selection of a winner from the submitted proposals.  It’s another chance to find a bidder who will continue hospital operations at the site, but the new RFP is far from a solution despite the repeated references to such development as “historic”.

Closing Statement:

Here is de Blasio’s closing statement, addressing the imbroglio around his NYPD security detail and it’s driving.

Full Q&A:

Here is de Blasio’s full press Q&A:

Transition Update – Public Advocate-elect James (Updated)



We spoke with Public Advocate-elect Letitia James about her transition and plans for the office of Public Advocate.  James had just completed a town hall at York College.

Update – Wills & Friends:

As James’s arrival was delayed, Council Member Ruben Wills held the floor for about 20 minutes.  Among those he introduced were State Senator Malcolm Smith and State Assembly Member Vivian Cook.

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.

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: