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The Suffolk factor in AG race
The Democratic primary for New York State attorney general is shaping up to be interesting, with a Quinnipiac University poll released last week finding New York City Public Advocate Letitia James comfortably in the lead, but a whopping 42 percent undecided.
As always, Long Island is an important element in the path to victory. One candidate, law professor Zephyr Teachout, faced the Long Island electorate when she primaried Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in 2014. In that race, she logged decent numbers against the incumbent in Suffolk County, nabbing some 40 percent of the vote.
“We had enormous support from parents and teachers, from environmental activists and from people who are sick and tired of Albany corruption and misconduct,” Teachout told The Point on Tuesday, citing corruption in state government and the opt-out movement that swept Long Island.
While the opt-out movement is less hot, corruption on Long Island is still top-of-mind with the recent trials for former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano.
Teachout said her shoestring 2014 campaign didn’t have money for Suffolk polling, but in talking to activists, she felt that Democratic primary voters in the county cared about clean air and water, fracking and other environmental issues.
In this more crowded campaign, her opponents are taking positions further to the left than Cuomo once did, and she no longer has the progressive mantle to herself.
But will her positions — such as supporting the abolition of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the release of names of NYPD officers who shot a mentally disturbed man in Brooklyn in April — resonate in the suburbs? Teachout says we’re in uncharted territory.
“There’s a lot of old stories about politics, and they’re really being upended this year.”
MTA, Amtrak: All in the family?
Just three months after pointing fingers at Amtrak for standing in the way of getting work done on the East Side Access project, Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief development officer Janno Lieber applauded the national railroad Monday. He told the MTA board’s Long Island Rail Road committee that there’s been “a real sea change” since April, when Lieber first started talking publicly about Amtrak’s shortcomings.
Amtrak plays a key role in the construction of East Side Access, the plan to extend LIRR service to Grand Central Terminal, because it owns and controls the land and infrastructure at Harold Interlocking, a key junction in Queens. Earlier this year, Lieber complained that Amtrak’s inability to provide staff to oversee and do the necessary work was delaying the project, which is massively over budget and way behind schedule.
Since then, Amtrak has provided more staff for weekend work, allowing the LIRR to go from only getting 40 percent or less of its scheduled work done, as was the case in April, to completing 80 percent or more of scheduled tasks now.
What’s more, Amtrak has agreed to let the LIRR contract out some work on overhead catenary electrical wires. It’s a system only Amtrak uses, but sources told The Point that Amtrak officials realized they couldn’t complete the work with the staff they had, so they turned it over to the LIRR, which is paying for the project.
That’s a big deal because previously, Amtrak unions and their work rules stood in the way of such a shift.
“They’ve given us assurance that they’ll take responsibility for the labor issues associated with that,” Lieber said of Amtrak.
None of that, however, means a faster, bump-free ride ahead for East Side Access. Lieber noted that the MTA and Amtrak still have “a lot of issues” to work through.
And East Side Access still is more than four years away from becoming a reality.
Randi F. Marshall
Personal news on taxpayer dime
Politicians using taxpayer communications operations to advance their own careers is a time-honored tradition with the Nassau County Legislature, which takes first place for using mailers, those supersized postcards with a photo of the elected official and some news about a bill being passed or an upcoming meeting.
But the legislature might be pioneering new territory with an emailed news release Monday from legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams that praises daughter Kennedy for getting accepted into a six-day national STEM program. The subject line of the release: “Legislator Kevan M. Abrahams Congratulates Daughter, Kennedy Abrahams On Being Accepted To a National STEM Program.”
The release includes a photo of Kennedy and the obligatory piped quote from the subject: “I am thrilled to be accepted to the National Stem program. I look forward to an engaging week of learning and innovative study.”
Holly Curtis, press secretary for the Democratic caucus, rejected the notion that releases lauding the accomplishments of elementary-school children of legislators are new.
“We send out releases all the time congratulating family and friends and constituents,” said Curtis. When asked to provide an example, she did not, repeating that it was done before she arrived in the job earlier this year.