Mayor Bill de Blasio visited Breezy Point today, joined by Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro. Their appearance two days ahead of the third anniversary of Hurricane Sandy’s landfall was intended to laud the progress in the City’s Build It Back program, and included a separate visit with a Breezy Point family just returned to their rebuilt home. de Blasio and Castro were joined by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Assembly Member Phil Goldfeder (who represents Rockaway), Council Member, HPD Commissioner Vicki Been, Housing Recovery Office Director Amy Peterson, Resiliency Director Dan Zarilli, HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary Marion McFadden and HUD Regional Administrator Holly Leicht.
Mayor de Blasio’s staff had announced the press conference as fielding “on topic” questions only. de Blasio implemented that restriction even more restrictively, declining to answer “on topic” questions addressing the planning and future operation of the ongoing recovery efforts. Question topics included the estimated time for completion of all of the Sandy recovery home rebuilding, the implementation of new flood maps, whether de Blasio’s reported future endorsement of Hillary Clinton is tied to a longterm need for federal government assistance, whether in Secretary Castro’s view the City could do better on any element of Sandy recovery efforts, communicating an increased sense of urgency to City agencies, significant variations in the reported number of Build It Back applicants, how the City will continue its increased rate of repairs, details on the construction firms used in the program and praise for developer Gerry Romski.
Governor Andrew Cuomo came to Breezy Point this afternoon, holding a bill signing ceremony at the Point Breeze Clubhouse. Joined by State Senator Joe Addabbo and State Assembly Member Phil Goldfeder, Cuomo signed into law a bill extending an exemption for Breezy Point residents from an pre-existing requirement that they obtain a special permit from New York City for rebuilding or repairs. Cuomo also announced a state study of raising the elevation of homes in Breezy Point.
Cuomo spoke with the press following the signing ceremony. Question topics included Bill de Blasio (multiple times), Uber, Cuomo’s recently increased rate of public appearances, concerns expressed by district attorneys on Cuomo’s executive order appointing the NYS attorney general as a special prosecutor in all police killings of unarmed civilians and the City’s Sandy recovery programs.
Update – Uber:
Cuomo suggested that his administration will wade into the escalating confrontation between Uber and the de Blasio administration:
Mayor Bill de Blasio visited Rockaway Friday afternoon, joining the annual beach opening celebration and holding a press conference. During his visit de Blasio announced that any surplus federal funding from the ongoing boardwalk rebuilding will be applied to other Rockaway projects. de Blasio was well-received, with elected officials offering praise and attendees providing applause. Elected officials joining de Blasio included Senators Joe Addabbo and James Sanders, Assembly Members Phil Goldfeder and Michele Titus, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Council Members Donovan Richards and Eric Ulrich. Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver and EDC President Kyle Kimball also joined de Blasio. Our photo gallery is here.
de Blasio has had a bumpy relationship with many in Rockaway, particularly in the western areas of Belle Harbor and Breezy Point. Those hard feelings were set aside Friday, however, with the combination of the festive summer beach opening and notable progress on boardwalk rebuilding. The audience of several hundred people applauded de Blasio’s boardwalk rebuilding and funding comments, although they sat silently as de Blasio praised FEMA. They responded to Queens Borough President Melinda Katz’s request for “a round of applause for Mayor de Blasio”, prompting a smiling mayor to reply “that just shows the generosity of Queens.”
Out of sight, out of mind. That notion applied to the few sign-holding Rockaway residents who appeared at Mayor de Blasio’s boardwalk press conference on Friday. The four I spotted were relegated to a “free speech zone” invisible to Mayor de Blasio and most of the several hundred people in attendance.
In this view from the camera riser, looking away from the lectern on the boardwalk where Mayor de Blasio spoke, the “free speech zone” is faintly visible deep in the center of the picture and close to the white trucks on Shore Front Parkway. The “free speech zone” is also about 10-15 feet lower than the boardwalk, ensuring that the Mayor and other speakers could not see the “free speech zone”, much less the signs.
Police directed sign-holders to the “free speech zone,” despite objections.
Mayor Bill de Blasio marked the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy with a press conference on the beach in the Midland Beach section of Staten Island. Earlier, he had participated in a home rebuilding in Coney Island.
de Blasio was joined at the press conference by members of his administration, including Amy Peterson, Dan Zarelli, Mitch Silver and Bill Goldstein, and elected officials including state senators Diane Savino and Andrew Lanza, council members Steve Matteo and Alan Maisal, Borough President Jimmy Oddo and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
We’ve divided the video of his Q&A as de Blasio did during the press conference; Sandy-related, Ebola-related and off-topic.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has recently spoken about a broad plan for economic development and transportation improvements in Rockaway. He’s spoken only in very general terms, however, without offering any details or more than a vague timeline.
He first discussed it at a press conference in Far Rockaway on October 15th, offering that he anticipates putting forth a “holistic development plan” that will outline a “long term vision for the economic growth of the Rockaways and the transportation to go with it.” When I asked about the timing, he responded that “you’re going to hear some more announcements in the coming months related to the Rockaways that are specific and then thereafter you’re going to see a much bigger plan … I think that’s something you’re going to see next year.” Today the Mayor responded that a plan, or at least elements of a plan, would be released “in the coming weeks and months.”
It’s unclear precisely what the Mayor intends, but his words clearly, indeed expressly, create big expectations.
One note – the Mayor’s schedule for Thursday includes “a meeting at City Hall with administration and elected officials to discuss Rockaway redevelopment.” That’s consistent with recent reports that Rockaway elected officials seeking to stave off the looming end of Rockaway ferry service would meet with de Blasio. His schedule gives a broader cast to that meeting, “Rockaway redevelopment,” rather than just ferry service.
Rob Astorino returned to Rockaway today, touring Beach 116th Street on the two year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. As his visit wrapped up, he spoke with reporters at the beach end of Beach 116th.
Here are selected excerpts. Among the question topics are transportation infrastructure, Governor Cuomo’s lack of appearances in Rockaway, what he would do differently concerning the state’s Sandy recovery efforts and whether he views Governor Cuomo’s heavy use of official events as “abusing the power of his office.”
Republican Electeds Support:
I asked Astorino about the limited support that he’s received from Republican elected officials.
Our coverage of Astorino’s prior visits to Rockaway are here and here.
Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference today in Broad Channel, the small island enclave in Jamaica Bay, celebrating the markedly improved performance of the City’s Build It Back program and announcing expanded goals for the program. The mayor briefly viewed a home being reconstructed by Build It Back and then moved around the corner for his press conference. Continue reading de Blasio Press Q&A: The Broad Channel Edition→
Mayor Bill de Blasio returned to Far Rockaway Wednesday, unveiling two jobs initiatives while visiting a Sandy recovery/jobs fair. He announced a “Build it Back Local Hiring Initiative,” requiring Build it Back contractors to post job opportunities and give residents of Sandy-impacted neighborhoods first priority to register for job opportunities, and a “Rockaways (sic) Economic Advancement Initiative” providing expanded services to job seekers. The jobs fair was the product of a July promise by Amy Peterson, Director of the Office of Housing Recovery.
de Blasio has spoken in very broad terms of the opportunity that the Sandy recovery effort provides “to not just right the wrongs of Sandy, but start righting some greater wrongs“, and he continued that theme Wednesday. Pledging to put forth a “holistic development plan” and to “undo a lot of what done wrong in the past” on Rockaway’s economic development, de Blasio said that he will make “some more announcements in the coming months … that are specific and then thereafter you’re going to see a much bigger plan.”
Topics during the Q&A portion of his press conference included the looming discontinuance of the Rockaway ferry, a broad consideration of his earlier statement about “righting greater wrongs,” what happened to government funding for a ferry obtained by Anthony Weiner and Joe Addabbo, whether there is any City effort to “track down scammers” in the Build it Back program, how satisfied de Blasio is with the pace of Build it Back, whether an updated evacuation plan is contemplated in conjunction with increasing the housing supply in Rockaway and a government memo reported by The Wave which stated that more money was available from FEMA than publicly acknowledged and that such additional funding could be a political liability. Here is the full Q&A:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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