GOP shake-up brewing
There will be consequences to the election reforms Albany lawmakers approved earlier this week, but the ground is already shaking over the impact of the state primary being held on June 25, 2019, especially for New York’s Republican Party and its chairman, Ed Cox.
Moving the state primary to June from September means that the state GOP organizational meeting will be in mid-July because the party’s bylaws require it to be held within 20 days of the primary.
Cox says he intends to seek a new term but several county GOP chairs have called for him to step down. Several chairs have mentioned Erie County GOP chair Nick Langworthy as Cox’s replacement to shore up the struggling party.
On Friday, however, Suffolk County chair John J. LaValle told The Point he is considering making a run for state chair. LaValle said he was approached by local GOP leaders and donors to take the helm after the state party’s rout in State Senate races in November. No Republican has won a statewide election since George Pataki's last gubernatorial victory in 2002.
LaValle said he is “watching how things transpire in Albany” with a focus on how the suburbs and upstate fare with Democratic control of all three levers of state government before he decides. Party rules would require him to give up the Suffolk County leadership. As a downstater, LaValle thinks he is uniquely positioned to bring the party back to prominence in New York.
“The road to rebuilding the New York Republican Party will begin with the national media market and the NYC and the Hamptons donor class. They’ve given tremendous sums to the national party, it’s imperative that we convince them to invest locally,’ he said.
If LaValle runs and wins the post, Long Island would be home for the state chairs of both major parties, as Nassau County’s Jay Jacobs will soon become the leader of the Democrats.
'Doesn’t have to be the Hunger Games'
With Democrats now in control and so far working together in Albany, the main divisions in the capital may end up being not partisan but urban-suburban.
To get a sense of how Democrats view the divide, The Point checked in with State Sens. Jamaal Bailey and Alessandra Biaggi, who represent the only two state legislative districts to include pieces of NYC and a surrounding suburb, according to the state Board of Elections.
Both senators noted that some issues actually tracked throughout their districts.
“I like to think of more common areas than divisions,” said Bailey, whose district includes parts of the Bronx and Mount Vernon.
Biaggi, who also represents pieces of the Bronx plus suburban sections like Pelham, cited voting reform and LGBTQ bills as measures that apply to all of her constituents. Biaggi is the granddaughter of Mario Biaggi, who represented some of that area in Congress.
But Biaggi and Bailey acknowledged some sticking points. There’s the issue of property taxes, which Biaggi says she has to think about with “two frames.”
She thinks a 2 percent property tax cap should be permanent so as not to add to the “burden” of suburban homeowners.
“If the issue mounted, I always think about Mt. Vernon,” said Bailey, adding that he generally defers to his Westchester County colleagues such as Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on county issues. He says he’s not certain about a cap. It’s that thinking that might make the cap a tough vote in the state Assembly.
Then there is school funding, traditionally a viper's nest of political infighting. Both senators suggested the Bronx could use more attention or funding, but both sidestepped the idea of shortchanging high-performing suburban districts.
“It doesn’t have to be the Hunger Games,” said Bailey.
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Betting against the house
As gambling expands in New York, Long Island’s formerly destitute Off-Track Betting organizations, now nursing themselves back to health on slots profits, are hoping for an even rosier future.
In Queens, Resorts World Casino is making a fortune off the 500 machines it has designated as being operated for Nassau OTB, thanks to its unusually beneficial revenue share deal on them. Nassau OTB says its revenue from the deal will go from $9 million a year to $25 million a year in April, and the county’s cut will go from $3 million a year to $20 million.
Likewise in Suffolk County, the increasingly revitalized OTB is looking for even more opportunity.
A federal bankruptcy judge recently recommended a ruling in favor of Islandia’s Jake’s 58 Hotel & Casino in a lawsuit filed by village residents to try to shut the slots parlor. The lawsuit claims the village engaged in illegal zoning practices to pave the way for approval of the business, which is scheduled to pay Islandia $47 million over 20 years.
The zoning conflict, normally a state issue, is in federal court because the Suffolk OTB declared bankruptcy in 2012 and as of last year owed about $17 million to creditors. But business is great at Jake’s 58 and the financial clouds are lifting. Operating 1,000 machines, the slots parlor is averaging a net win of about $3.5 million dollars a week this year, or $520 per machine per day.
The take in Islandia should come to an astonishing $180 million per year. About $125 million of that goes to state taxes and other contractual payouts. Out of the rest, operator Delaware North must pay the operating costs of the casino and make up for the initial outlay to buy the property, previously a Marriott, and open the casino.
Suffolk County, which by law gets all the profits of Suffolk OTB, was guaranteed $5 million over the first two years from the casino, which opened in March 2017, and then $1 million from the third through 10th years. Suffolk OTB President Phil Nolan says the OTB’s creditors should be fully paid off in about 18 months. But he also sees an opportunity for Suffolk County to host one of the three full casinos that could be licensed downstate over the next few years, and he sees OTB as the logical operator, which would mean far more money in the county’s coffers, too.
The Point will not run on Monday, Jan. 21 in observance of MLK Jr. Day. It will return on Tuesday.