King Day 2015: Cuomo Calls In

Governor Andrew Cuomo called in to the Rev. Al Sharpton’s Martin Luther King Day celebration today.  While other elected officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Tish James and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joined Sharpton, Cuomo participated by phone.  His call suffered some technical troubles, with a first attempt scrubbed.  Here is his second attempt, which began with technical problems but which eventually worked.

King Day 2015: de Blasio & Sharpton

de Blasio Sharpton Hug 1/19/15Mayor Bill de Blasio joined the Rev. Al Sharpton for Sharpton’s annual Martin Luther King Day celebration this afternoon, happily sitting with Sharpton in a duel appearance aimed at rejecting critics of their relationship.  Sharpton’s celebration featured many elected officials but contrary to his typical practice Sharpton initially invited only de Blasio to join him on stage.

Sharpton:

In a lengthy introduction and opening remarks, Sharpton rejected the notion that he is anti-police and the notion that de Blasio’s relationship with him is either unusual or untoward.  After describing his relationships with past mayors and governors, Sharpton said of de Blasio “we didn’t want a flunkie we wanted a mayor, and we got a mayor that will talk to us and respect us.”  Here are his full opening remarks:

de Blasio:

Mayor de Blasio saluted Martin Luther King and praised Sharpton as continuing King’s work.  de Blasio also indirectly rebutted critics, offering praise for police while emphasizing the crime reductions in 2014 under his administration.  He criticized anyone “saying something vicious and vile to a police officer”, saying that anyone doing so is “holding us back.”

Sharpton & Garners Visit Ramos/Liu Site

The Rev. Al Sharpton and members of Eric Garner’s family this afternoon visited the site where NYPD Detectives Rafael Ramon and Wenjian Liu were murdered, placing wreaths in their memory.  Sharpton and the Garner family travelled from the National Action Network’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration in a bus caravan with a few hundred supporters.  Sharpton spoke briefly before placing the wreaths:

de Blasio Press Q&A: The Housing Goal Edition

On Thursday Mayor Bill de Blasio continued his efforts at moving past his recent friction with the NYPD and PBA, holding a press conference to tout his administration’s accomplishments in “creating or preserving” affordable housing during 2014.  de Blasio celebrated exceeding his administration’s stated goal of creating or preserving at least 16,000 units of “affordable” housing in calendar year 2014, reporting that it financed the “creation and preservation of” 17,376 “affordable units.”  After several weeks of intense confrontation and conflict with the PBA and many outside critics, de Blasio appeared to relish discussing a subject that he’s long been been deeply interested in and in which his administration has invested substantial energy and effort.

The mayor was joined at Eagle Houses, a co-op in Fort Greene, by Rep. Jose Serrano, Assembly Members Walter Mosely and Joe Lentol, Public Advocate Tish James, Council Members Laurie Cumbo and Jumaane Williams, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, HPD Commissioner Vicki Been and Housing Development Corporation President Gary Rodney.

On Topic Q&A:

On topic questions included whether the administration plans to increase low-income affordable housing production, what actions are required for the administration to count a unit of housing as “preserved”, whether housing built with 421(a) tax credits anywhere in the City should require affordable units, how the de Blasio administration counts housing underway at the end of the Bloomberg administration toward its goal, what was done in this housing complex to “preserve” these units, whether units counted as “preserved” are always on a 30 year agreement, the annual average of 20,000 units created or preserved as set forth in the mayor’s ten year goal of 200,000 such units and how money was spent on the 17,000 units created or preserved in 2014.

Off Topic Q&A:

Off topic questions included a Department of Investigations report detailing problems with corrections officers at Rikers Island, de Blasio’s message to protestors resuming anti-NYPD protests, his relationship with police unions, a call by the head of the Lieutentants Benevolent Association to strengthen laws concerning resisting arrest, an increase in police protection for Jewish organizations and sites and Dov Hikind’s claim of a decrease in police presence, delays in the implementation of the City’s municipal ID card program, his message to PBA members dissatisfied with their union leadership, his position on a city council plan to fund the purchase of additional bullet-proof vests for police officers, whether the Democratic National Committee has expressed concerns around the recent protests as it considers whether to hold the 2016 convention in Brooklyn, whether his “thoughts” on the anti-NYPD protests have “evolved” and whether he will direct the NYPD to change its FOIL request process to accept email or other electronic requests.

de Blasio Press Q&A: The Westchester Square Edition

On Wednesday Mayor Bill de Blasio worked to turn attention away from his troubled relationship with the NYPD and toward one of his successful initiatives, highlighting significant improvements to an historically dangerous intersection with a visit to the redesigned and rebuilt intersection of East Tremont Avenue and Silver Street in the Bronx neighborhood of Westchester Square.  The redesign and rebuild is part of his administration’s Vision Zero initiative.

Joined by DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Public Advocate Tish James, Assembly Member Luis Sepulveda, Council Member Jimmy Vacca and NYPD Assistant Chief for Transportation Thomas Chan de Blasio then held a lengthy press conference nearby.

On Topic Q&A:

The on topic Q&A included redesign plans for other streets, especially Queens Boulevard, why the administration attributes the reduction in pedestrian fatalities to Vision Zero and not to regular year-to-year variances, how the administration actually knows that driving speeds are reduced, why so few street redesign projects have been done on Staten Island, data for any changes in safety at this E.Tremont/Silver Street intersection, why Commissioner Bratton did not attend, why there are few speeding and failure to yield tickets issued in this (45th) precinct, the negative effect of speed bumps on emergency response vehicles, plans for marking and painting of roads, whether the mayor will seek additional red light camera authorizations from the state legislature, the paucity of criminal prosecutions against drivers who kill pedestrians and an estimate of money received from speed camera tickets.

Off Topic Q&A:

The off topic portion of the press conference substantially focused on de Blasio’s continuing friction with the NYPD and the PBA.  Question topics included the recent rollout of the City’s municipal ID program, an internal PBA meeting reported to have degenerated into yelling and shoving over PBA President Pat Lynch’s demands for an apology from the mayor and whether that provided “consolation” to the mayor, whether he takes comfort from the low number of PBA members reported to have signed “stay away from my funeral” statements, Bratton’s comment that the “well was poisoned” by de Blasio’s bring of former Sharpton aide Rachel Noerdlinger, a potential Teamsters strike at Hunts Point market, Governor Cuomo’s consideration of legislation allowing public access to grand jury minutes, the mayor’s objections to a City Council proposed bill outlawing police use of chokeholds, a reported Cuomo/Lynch meeting and what role the governor should fill in the Lynch/de Blasio dispute, whether the mayor is willing to acknowledge “missteps”, the reports of Legionnaire’s Disease in Co-op City, de Blasio’s reaction to a possible 2016 Mitt Romney candidacy and when he last spoke with the Rev. Al Sharpton.

We Are All … Patriots Fans

Amid the political chitchat and serious policy questions posed by New Hampshire voters Sunday evening former New York governor and current Jets fan George Pataki addressed a deeply emotional issue: how does he feel about the local team?  With the NFL playoffs on screen behind him Pataki embraced the local favorite, all while tossing a few digs at a putative rival.

More from Pataki’s New Hampshire visit is here.

President Pataki?

Acting and speaking like a presidential candidate, former New York governor George Pataki made a campaign appearance in New Hampshire Sunday evening.  Pataki is not yet formally a candidate, but his intention to run was clear as he began a two day trip to New Hampshire with a “meet and greet” at a well-known political venue, the 401 Tavern in Hampton.  He was warmly greeted by the 25-30 attendees, although the attendees I spoke with shared the view that it’s too early to commit to any candidate.

Although he was three times elected governor of New York, once in an upset over the formidable Mario Cuomo and twice in decisive reelection bids, Pataki faces long odds and is generally regarded in New York political circles as having no chance whatsoever.  Out of office for eight years, he has modest name recognition, little campaign funding in the bank and a Republican primary electorate that’s significantly to his right on social issues.  He professes not to be worried, however, with his surprising 1994 gubernatorial victory over Mario Cuomo as inspiration.

He’s flirted with running for president multiple times, but never actually gone through with it.  At 69, this is his last realistic opportunity to run.  Even now, while he appears vigorous and healthy, his age may be an issue.  Although the country has grown more embracing of older professionals in many ways, we’ve shifted to a paradigm of younger presidents.  Bill Clinton and Barack Obama took office in their 40’s, and George W. Bush, who is one month older than Clinton, took office at 54.  At 70 on inauguration day, Pataki would be the oldest person to become president.

I spoke with Pataki briefly as the meet and greet concluded.  I began by asking whether he is, or intends to be, a candidate for president.  Pataki said he’s “likely to become a candidate” and that he’s “inclined to do this.”

Update:  Pataki also addressed a deeply emotional issue – how does the Jets fan feel about the New England Patriots?

de Blasio Press Q&A: The School Cellphone Edition

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina today announced the reversal of the City’s prohibition on students having cellphones in public schools.  Rules of usage will be established on a school by school basis, but all schools will allow them.

On Topic Q&A:

Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Farina addressed numerous detailed questions on the new policy and its implementation.

Off Topic Q&A:

Off topic question topics included whether the mayor and his wife have smoked marijuana inside Gracie Mansion, a Daily News call for the mayor to “accept responsibility for inflaming the police”, whether the mayor believes he should apologize for comments on the police, whether the Democratic National Committee has expressed concerns about current mayoral/police friction as it considers Brooklyn as a site for the 2016 Democratic Convention, whether the mayor supports the recent Cuomo/Christie veto of legislation on the Port Authority, a pending state legislative bill on police disability pensions, the expected  special election in the 11th Congressional District, whether the mayor believes there is a police slowdown, the dismay of the recently shot and wounded police officers at Mayor de Blasio’s hospital visit, the possible change in the Staten Island Chuck/Groundhog Day ceremony, the meeting today between Police Commissioner Bratton and union leaders and how Mayor de Blasio envisions the current mayoral/police friction ending.

Separate clips of the questions on mayoral mansion marijuana and Staten Island Chuck are here.

Pot & Groundhogs

Do you and your wife smoke pot in Gracie Mansion?  Will you miss having the chance to kill Staten Island Chuck again?  Those were two unusual questions posed to Mayor de Blasio during a press conference this afternoon.  The press conference was held to announce a reversal of the current City policy prohibiting student possession of cell phones in public schools, with the Q&A also focusing on the continuing NYPD/PBA-de Blasio friction.  These other moments addressed some less weighty questions:

Marijuana:

A reporter asked an unusual question of the mayor:

Staten Island Chuck:

During last year’s Staten Island Zoo Groundhog Day ceremony Staten Island Chuck escaped the mayor’s clutches and leapt to the ground.  Chuck (actually a female substitute named Charlotte) died a week or so later, reportedly from internal injuries suffered in that leap.  The zoo is now considering changing the Groundhog Day event to eliminate any mayoral handling of the subject groundhog.  Here’s the mayor’s reaction:

de Blasio Press Q&A: The Crime Stats & Friction Edition

Mayor Bill de Blasio joined Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and several senior NYPD officials at One Police Plaza today for a press conference touting remarkable crime statistics for 2014 and discussing the mayor’s troubled relationship with many in the NYPD.  The mayor and commissioner began by proudly discussed the NYPD’s accomplishments in pushing crime numbers lower than the record-setting 2013.

The Q&A was quite lengthy, running almost 40 minutes.  The Q&A included detailed discussion of the 2014 crime stats and a discussion of two specific cases: a Manhattan man allegedly shot by his adult son while in his Beekman Place apartment and the Manhattan DA’s decision to not charge Sandford Rubenstein in connection with an alleged rape.  The mayor and police commissioner also addressed the mayor’s friction-filled relationship with the PBA and rank-and-file police officers and the recent episodes in which police officers turned their back on Mayor de Blasio at the funerals of murdered NYPD detectives Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.

An excerpt featuring Mayor de Blasio’s and Commissioner Bratton’s statements on police officers turning their back to the mayor is here.

de Blasio & Bratton on Police Back Turning

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton today addressed the widely reported actions of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of police officers who turned their backs when Mayor de Blasio spoke at the funerals of Detectives Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.  Speaking during a press conference at One Police Plaza de Blasio termed their actions “disrespectful to the families” of Ramos and Liu and “disrespectful to the people of this City.”  Bratton’s reaction was harsher, condemning “a labor action being taken in the middle of a funeral” by officers who “embarrassed themselves.”  He also condemned “the selfishness of that action” which “took so much attention” away from the slain detectives.

Ramos Funeral Photos

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IMG_0264Detective Rafael Ramos, murdered alongside Detective Wenjian Liu, was buried Saturday amid a sad yet powerful show of support and remembrance.  His funeral at Christ Tabernacle Church in Glendale was attended by an estimated at 25,000 people, predominantly uniformed police officers from New York City and around the country, and many elected officials.  Here are some of my pictures from Glendale.

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