Governor Andrew Cuomo
NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his plan on affordable housing in his second State of the City speech on Tuesday. Stating high cost living in New York City along with the high prices as his profound challenge, de Blasio is pushing his ambiguous plan to organize the construction of hundreds of thousands of new apartments over the next decade.
The mayor outlined his plan to tackle along with his top priority of affordable housing during his speech at Baruch College in Manhattan late Tuesday morning. Highlighting his first year achievements of 2014, de Blasio touted making Pre-K available for 50,000 children, Vision Zero plan of making the streets safer for crossing, paid sick leave for tens of thousands of workers, as well as improving conditions of city’s jails by pouring millions to more surveillance cameras and expanding mental illness programs.
De Blasio’s address focused the majority of the speech on affordable housing, citing “if we don’t act and act boldly, New York risks taking on the qualities of a gated community.” Going on about the New York diversity gap, de Blasio expresses the reason is due to the “soaring cost of housing.” His central focus was on the housing plan opposed to outlining policy proposals for 2015 set a different tone from previous mayors as de Blasio plans to invest $200 million in affordable housing infrastructure job initiatives.
Focusing on the city’s zoning laws to help achieve his housing plan, it will include 160,000 new apartments at market-rate over the next eight years.
“For the first time in New York City history, we are creating a mandatory inclusionary zoning requirement that will apply to all major residential rezoning and in every major rezoning, development will require developers to include affordable housing as a precondition.” De Blasio eyes to target six neighborhoods for rezoning to include East New York in Brooklyn, Long Island City and Flushing in Queens, Jerome Corridor in the Bronx, Bay Street Corridor in Staten Island and East Harlem in Manhattan.
De Blasio’s affordable housing plan will face challenges from Albany and Governor Andrew Cuomo as most components of his plan won’t be undertaken anytime soon as promised. Sunnyside Yards is a huge controversial plan that the mayor’s vision for new development of 11,250 affordable units is controlled by the Amtrak and the state Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The governor’s office commented after the address on this issue, stating “it’s an important facility for our transportation system and it’s not available for any other use in the near term.” A study from city officials will examine this new vision beginning this month to determine the cost and infrastructure needed to redevelop the rail yard.
Along with his housing plan, de Blasio wants to extend ferry public transportation throughout New York City stating it will ease options for isolated neighborhood development. The launch of citywide ferry service will add new services to already existing services and linking them together. The cost to use this ferry system from the mayor is “pegged to the cost of a MetroCard ($2.50). The plan for the riverine is set to begin by 2017.
De Blasio’s speech repeated his core central campaign theme – “Tale of Two Cities” as a step in fulfilling his campaign promise to narrow the divide between New York City rich and poor. He emphasizes the need of raising minimum wages and benefits. Noting Henry Ford- de Blasio added his left wing “socialist” idea of increasing living wages for his workers to afford the cars they worked to build. Stating it was good for business, it can work here in New York as well.
However, this will be a problem that will be halted by Albany. De Blasio’s goal of working to raise the city’s minimum wage to $13 an hour this year and $15 an hour by 2019 is a non-starter as a means to indexing the rate of inflation. Cuomo’s proposal outlined two weeks ago would increase New York City wages to $11.50 an hour. The office commented on the proposed increase of wages stating, “They wouldn’t gain the approval of lawmakers in Albany.” The mayor’s focus on changing policy goals without Albany will be difficult to achieve due to the mayor’s closest ally Sheldon Silver not being speaker as of Monday night. Without Silver, it will be difficult for de Blasio to get his plan inside the capital floor for a vote. Another obstacle de Blasio will face is the Senate Republicans who now control the chambers and will not forget the mayor aiding to oust the Republicans in last year election, but failed.
On the issue about the NYPD, the speech included only a brief mention. With a police officer beginning the speech by singing the national anthem, the minor reference to policing issues were de Blasio touting the ending of overuse of Stop and Frisk, another campaign cornerstone promise and 2014 overall crime stats. “We ended the overuse of stop-and-frisk, reducing stops by over 75 percent. And since we instituted our new marijuana policy, arrests are down almost 65 percent.”
As the mayor was inside touting the accomplishments of the NYPD, outside a small group of protesters “New Yorkers against Bratton” gathered, holding signs and chanting “Mayor de Blasio stop hiding behind your son’s Afro, Broken Windows has got to go.”
Since the assassination of two NYPD officers before Christmas along with the ongoing feud with the police unions, the mayor became more explicitly pro-NYPD in his public speeches. “Keeping New York City safe, Our NYPD officers helped bring the city’s crime rate to an all-time low – with the smallest number of murders, robberies, and burglaries on record.” However, the last stats released as of this week shows that murdering and shooting are up compared to last year.
ALBANY, N. Y. — Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered his State of the State address on Wednesday combined with his budget proposal focusing heavily on tougher education improvement reforms as well as criminal justice that is seen as easy to address but harder to solve as a whole. Much of the reforms proposed by the governor will be encountered by a divided legislature of Republican control of the Senate while an assembly is dominated by Democrats.
The governor’s 90 minute rushed speech with the reliance of PowerPoint slides to emphasize his policy priorities, was delivered in the Capitol of New York that had no surprises, as much of the addressed proposal was leaked during many news conferences prior to the address this month. Combination of the budget proposal and reforms overall calls for the spending plan totaling $150 billion, an increase of 5 percent from previous years with mixed reviews on both sides of education reform and criminal justice reform.
On education, Cuomo wants to overhaul teacher evaluation formula by increasing tenure to five years straight of high marks instead of three years as well as making it easier to fire ineffective teachers. Reforming the 3020-A of teacher’s removal, something Cuomo has been trying to push will face push backs from many democrats in the assembly as well as the teachers union.
The current formula found that only 1 percent of teachers are to be ineffective as only 38 percent of high school students are ready for college. Calling the evaluation “baloney”, Cuomo wants 50 percent of teacher evaluations to be based on standardized tests. He’s also calling for a 50 percent measure of an independent evaluator to observe the performance of teacher’s performance in a classroom.
On charter schools, Cuomo touted a proposal of increase funding of the number of cap allowed to 560 from 460, an increase of 100 as well as remove restrictions to charter sites where New York City is reaching its limit of reservation sites. The governor has also proposed $25 million funding into universal Pre-K programs to continue on in order to prevent increasing taxes. Last year, a feud over funding this program began with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio initiated increasing taxes as Governor Cuomo promised not to increase any, especially during his re-election bid.
The DREAM Act, a legislation that failed to pass last year was brought into the proposal. Cuomo’s budget includes providing tuition assistance to illegal immigrants as well as education tax credits for individuals and corporations. The proposed measures will be linked together forcing state lawmakers to take on both measures or none as democrats are opposed to the education tax credit for corporations, while Republicans are opposed to the Dream Act.
Expectations to bring reforms to criminal justice in the wake of the controversy over the Eric Garner case in Staten Island, Cuomo’s laid out a seven point agenda on reforming the criminal justice system. With only a small mention of this reform lacking specific details in his speech, both sides of the ongoing tension believe the agenda proposed isn’t enough. A proposal such as giving district attorney the power to release information of grand jury decision despite an indictment or not can give “people to know what actually happened” Cuomo stated. Instituting an independent monitor in cases of fatal episodes between police and civilians as well as recommended a special prosecutor to oversee such cases is told by the governor to help improve the system and confidence to “restore trust and respect between police and community.”
Police reform activists believes this isn’t enough and accountability is still lacking as they want the governor to do more to hold police accountable. Police unions on the other hand, believe that adding new equipment such as new bulletproof vests as well as bulletproof patrol car windows to help protect officers will not ease the tensions concerning police officers. “The tools to be horse-traded for criminal justice reforms designed to disrupt law enforcement due process rights.” said Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives Endowment Association.
Cuomo’s closing remarks were a national tone that ended with an emotional tone from his passing father, Governor Mario Cuomo’s famous 1984 Democratic National Convention speech as well as the late governor’s 1983 first inaugural address: Don’t let me forget what makes New York, New York.”
NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. — Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a powerful Democrat in Albany, was arrested after surrendering himself to the F.B.I on federal corruption charges early Thursday morning. The lawmaker was being under investigation after the controversial Moreland Commission, created by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2013 unexpectedly shut down last March.
The 35 pages of the five-count criminal complaint includes conspiracy to commit, wire fraud, mail fraud, extortion of using his official position to commit and kickbacks of influence. Silver used his official position to extort and bribe millions of dollars as personal outside income. The lucrative outside income was claimed to be earned as an injury lawyer, but the legal work practice was a fabrication created to hide payoffs of at least $6 million dollars. If convicted, Silver will face a maximum 20-years in prison for each count.
In a press conference after Silver turned himself in without the traditional “perp walk”, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara slammed his five-count complaint case depicting the powerful democrat as a greedy lawmaker exploiting his power for secret monetary gain. Mr. Bharara said the arrest of Mr. Silver goes to the “core of the problem in state government corruption of lack of transparency, accountability and principle, joined with an overabundance of greed, cronyism and self-dealing.”
The press conference detailed the extortion scheme Mr. Silver undertook in obtaining legal fees for “doing nothing”, while hiding the illegal activities from the public. Mr. Silver is being accused of bribes and kickbacks, and acquiring millions from two private law firms.
“For many years, New Yorkers have asked the question: How could Speaker Silver, one of the most powerful men in all of New York, earn millions of dollars in outside income without deeply compromising his ability to honestly serve his constituents? Today, we provide the answer: He didn’t,” Bharara said. Bharara laid out the investigation to Mr. Silver’s outside work and how he urged the anti-corruption commission shut down.
The charges stem from the aborted Moreland Commission created by Gov. Cuomo to investigate corruption going on in Albany. Prior to the shutdown, Mr. Silver and lawmakers sued to prevent investigation from the anti-corruption panel of their outside income. Mr. Bharara took over the commission work and unfinished work after the rapid shut down in March 2014 from Cuomo and began to focus on lawmakers’ outside earnings from their state salaries. Questions of Mr. Silver’s outside income was subject to controversy in June 2013 when he reported earnings of $750,000 from legal work with Weitz & Luxenberg in 2013.
Mr. Bharara accused Mr. Silver in engaging in two separate schemes. Obtaining real estate clients to one of the law firms, accepting $700,000 in bribes and kickbacks for the referrals and state funds to a doctor handling asbestos patients to be represented by famous law firm Weitz & Luxenberg, and obtaining fees of $3.9 million from the law firm in a corrupt scheme of referrals related to asbestos.
Since 2002, Silver accepted $5.3 million in payoffs related to his “work” from both law firms. Bharara seized $3.8 million of Mr. Silver’s “ill-gotten gains” that were dispersed among eight different bank accounts within six different banks.
On Thursday afternoon, Mr. Silver was released on $200,000 bond and spoke briefly to reporters outside the federal courthouse in New York City. “I am confident that when all the issues are aired, I will be vindicated,” Silver said shortly after the remarks from Mr. Bharara’s press conference. Along with the release, Mr. Silver surrendered his passport and his next court appearance was set for February 23.
Silver, 70, represents the Lower East Side and a prominent speaker of the Assembly for the past two decades and the most powerful democrat leader in New York. Being a part of the “Three Amigos”, Cuomo referred to himself, Silver and Senate majority leader, all three heavy hitters play a major role in New York politics from crucial policy agendas, creating the state budgets, and passing laws.
The arrest of this powerful lawmaker will shake Albany as the capital legislative session begins. A day before Gov. Cuomo laid out the state’s agenda in the State of the State speech, the attention is now being focused on this newly found corruption scandal. The shock waves of a once untouchable powerful elected official shows that the plague of Albany with “show me the money culture” can come crashing down if Silver decides to divulge his colleagues misdeeds as an exchange for leniency. With the speech now being covered up by the arrest, Cuomo will now have to regroup quickly to implement his reforms as the division of support and resignation of Mr. Silver echoes the chambers from both party aisles.
Republicans, both in the Assembly and Senate are calling for a resignation while most assembly democrats support and stand behind their embattled Speaker. Other Democrats such as Charles Barron voiced their dissent against Silver calling for him to step down from his leadership post. Governor Cuomo didn’t call for a resignation stating it’s up to the Assembly Democrats to decide whether Silver steps down or not. The governor commented on the arrest stating it’s “a bad reflection on government and it adds to the negativity.” Mayor Bill de Blasio however, defended Mr. Silver, calling him “a man of integrity and he certainly has due process rights.”
QUEENS, N.Y. – As people lined up outside Christ Tabernacle Church in Queens, N.Y. on Saturday, the hard and angry expressions on the faces of the NYPD officers began to soften as they looked at the crowd that gathered outside the church. Tens of thousands of police officers from all over the country turned out on a sunny but solemn day to bury their own from an assassination of one of two officers murdered last Saturday.
The shooting deaths of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in Bedford-Stuyvesant occurred a week ago in an ambushed style by a gunman avenging the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Both deaths became a high-profile confrontation with police this year that has led to many tensions wracking the city and other parts of the country as well.
The tension that gripped the city in the aftermath of the tragedy hung over the crowd as each leader of the city, the state and the nation gave eulogies trying to make sense of the division that is causing more harm than good.
Vice President Joe Biden attended the funeral unlike the President of the United States denouncing the killings of the officers as an assault on the entire city. “When an assassin’s bullet targets two officers’, it targets the entire city and it touched the souls of the entire nation.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was in attendance as he praised police for their restraints of the protests aimed solely on officers for weeks before the two officers’ deaths. “The NYPD protects the right of freedom of speech, even though they were the targets of false and abusive chants by some.” Continuing on the governor spoke about unity in New York, “At the end of the day, we are one, we are one people, one city, one state, one family, the family of New York. “
The calls for unity from each leader is silent as the signs of the division still remains. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio attended the funeral as per Ramos family request. He is still struggling to appease the anger of the police officer led by his rhetoric jabbing at cops from the grand jury decision earlier this month to not indict an NYPD officer when he stated at a press conference that “He talked to his son about the danger that he may face in any encounters from the police.”
No one spoke of the current anti-police climate in the city that caused uniformed policemen to turn their backs on Mayor de Blasio. And during the funeral, we see yet again, police officers not only NYPD, but every officer who attended the funeral from around the country turning their backs to the mayor in a sign of their disapproval as he gave his eulogy. The first time it occurred was when the mayor passed in a hallway at Woodhull Hospital hours after both officers’ death to speak at the police press conference.
De Blasio’s eulogy didn’t mention the tension that is causing the rift in the city. Instead, he spoke solely about Ramos and the jobs of police officers. Ramos “was a peacemaker in church, a peacemaker in his family, and a peacemaker on the streets of the City.” He continued on praising police officers stating “police officers are called ‘peace officers’ because that’s what they do- they keep the peace.” His speech at the funeral was said to be an opportunity to set the tone right and fix what he has started to push for unity between both sides, but with his tired self, he failed.
The most captivating eulogies of the service came from Commissioner Bill Bratton, the only man who spoke to actually walk in the shoes of police officers as he commands the 35,000 NYPD officers. He spoke passionately about the needs to heal in the upcoming days. The grief of this murder has become public as Bratton spoke directly to Officer Ramos’s sons as their “father represented the blue thread that holds our city together when disorder might pull it apart.” He continues his eulogy of unity from a divided city. “Rafael Ramos was ‘assassinated’ because he represented the entire police department and all of us, even though beneath the uniform, he was just a good man and maybe that’s our challenge, because we’ve all come to see only what we represent, instead of who we are, we don’t see each other. If we can learn to see each other, to see that our cops are people like Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, to see that our communities are filled with people like them, then when we see each other, we’ll heal as a department, as a city and as a country.”
The Commissioner posthumously upgraded both officer to the ranks of detective first grade and designated Officer Ramos as honorary department chaplain of the 84th precinct as a tribute to Ramos who was studying to become an NYPD chaplain.
After the service, the street filled with a sea of blue saluting the flag-draped casket as a folded flag into a triangle shape was given to the wife of Ramos as 12 police helicopters flew overhead in a missing man formation. On the ground, over 400 police motorcycles from around the country drove in tribute displaying grace and dignity down the Myrtle Avenue in Queens.
It’s has been a terrible sad week in New York, but the finest are standing stronger than ever and now the people must stand along with them.
As officers began to leave the service, an officer from another state grabbed an NYPD officer in a group to salute and say, “Keep it together brothers – we’ll get through all this together – we will get through these dark times because we have no choice. We are the police. It’s our duty to serve and protect, even if some people like your mayor don’t appreciate it.”
Officer Ramos now stands with St. Michael the Archangel and is guarding the gates of Heaven. Rest in peace brave soul. Rest in peace.