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Puerto Rico up close
SAN JUAN — At first, an intersection here seems like any street corner, until you see a car slam on its brakes.
San Juan might be faring better than other areas in Puerto Rico in getting electricity back, but things aren’t entirely normal even in the capital city. At some intersections, police officers direct traffic. At others, drivers are left to their own devices. Sometimes that means one car gives way to one car, sometimes it’s three for three. And sometimes, someone gets stuck.
“Go slow,” one driver advised The Point.
Traffic jams like this were common in the weeks after Hurricane Maria swept through in September. Now it’s January, and some drivers still have to trust in God.
It’s a fitting symbol for an island where close to 40 percent of energy customers are still without power.
The Point will be in Puerto Rico this week observing the recovery effort and the island’s deep relationship with New York. A 450-person team of New York utility workers, for example, has been assigned to aid Puerto Rico’s power authority in the San Juan metro area. It’s a difficult task: The region accounts for about 75 percent of the island’s load, according to the New York Power Authority. And the workers are still working.
An earlier version of this item misstated the number of New York utility workers contributing to the recovery in Puerto Rico.
From The Broad Room to the suburbs
“Sex in the City” is coming back to Brooklyn — for one night only.
Actress Cynthia Nixon is headlining a fundraiser Thursday night for The Broad Room, an all-female nonprofit organization that trains and supports female activists and candidates for public office.
Nixon has said she’s being urged to run for governor, but hasn’t said whether she will.
Among those joining her at the event will be Liuba Grechen Shirley, a progressive from Amityville who is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Rep. Peter King.
Shirley is spending plenty of time in Brooklyn this week. She’ll speak Wednesday evening at a meeting of Indivisible Nation BK.
And it’s not the first time she will be courting Kings County activist groups (and their wallets). She has spoken at an Indivisible fundraiser, along with events for Get Organized BK, a President Donald Trump resistance group.
It’s all close to home philosophically for Shirley, an Amityville consultant who worked on international development and women’s economic issues. Last year, she founded the grassroots group New York’s 2nd District Democrats to engage Long Islanders after Trump’s election.
Her effort to oust the long-serving Republican (Shirley was not yet born when King was first elected to the Hempstead Town Board) may rise or fall on the level of noise created by anti-Trump activists and political groups like hers and their cohorts in Brooklyn. They will need to provide financial support and volunteers in the coming months, crucial infusions that would be necessary for Shirley to ride a blue wave and sweep out the well-known incumbent.
Mark Chiusano and Randi F. Marshall
Familiar name tapped
Adam Barsky, the new chief of staff to the Port Authority’s executive director, says he intends to stay on as chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority.
NIFA’s founding charter contains some unusual language on dual office-holding that is beyond accommodating. It states that “no officer, member or employee” of the state or any political subdivision or authority in the state must give up his or her role to serve NIFA as a director, officer or employee. Longtime NIFA observers say the rule was written that way in 2000 to allow then-Long Island Power Authority chairman Richard Kessel to be a NIFA director.
Barsky, who starts his new job Thursday, told The Point that he had spoken to County Executive Laura Curran and Comptroller Jack Schnirman about his career change, and plans to be at NIFA as long as the authority needs him.
“I had a pretty demanding job before [as chief risk officer and executive vice president of the Israel Discount Bank of New York], and I managed to do both,” Barsky said. “It’s probably easier now than when I was just getting started at NIFA and learning the ropes, and there is really no conflict between the roles.”
What the two jobs do share and now strengthen is a bond to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who appointed Barsky to the NIFA job and chose Barsky’s new boss, Rick Cotton, to be executive director of the Port Authority. In that sense, Barsky is in much the same situation as his NIFA predecessor, Jon Kaiman, who chaired NIFA for Cuomo while also serving the governor as the head of the Sandy recovery vehicle New York Rising.
In contrast to Kaiman and Barsky, the first two heads of NIFA were famously independent and had no other public employment when they ruled the state oversight board. Ron Stack, whom Cuomo replaced with Kaiman, chaired NIFA from 2002-13, and repeatedly clashed with Cuomo over how accommodating and actively helpful he needed to be toward former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano.
The original NIFA chairman, and the only one to precede Stack, was Frank Zarb, former U.S. energy secretary and head of Nasdaq. Zarb was tasked with tugging then-County Executive Thomas Gulotta into line after the county got a $100 million bailout from the state, and was told it would never get another.
LI pols meet their match
The Google Arts & Culture app has gone viral this month with a feature that lets users match selfies to artwork in museums around the world.
The editorial board decided to have some fun and searched for matches for elected officials. Google found a match for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, below: Napoleon III, president and emperor of France and nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte.