New York State Senate Majority Leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, speaks at...

New York State Senate Majority Leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, speaks at the state Capitol in Albany on Jan. 29. Credit: AP/Hans Pennink

Daily Point

Bail reform at a crossroads

The proposal unveiled by State Senate Democrats that would make changes to the state’s hotly debated bail-reform efforts represents a new moment for the Senate majority — and, particularly, for Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

It puts Stewart-Cousins out front, and marks a key break with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on a controversial issue that involves criminal justice and race. It also aligns her chamber more closely with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, since pieces of the Senate plan resemble what Cuomo initially suggested last year.

What made the difference for Stewart-Cousins and Senate Democrats is polling that shows a dramatic swing from support for bail reform to deep concerns about it. A Siena College poll last April indicated that 55 percent of residents supported the bail law, while a poll released last month showed only 37 percent thought it was good for the state. 

Stewart-Cousins put together a working group of eight state senators — including Todd Kaminsky and Jim Gaughran — to try to come up with a proposal. Over the last several weeks, they met with District Attorneys Madeline Singas of Nassau and Tim Sini of Suffolk, and other law enforcement officials. They spent hours trying to reach a compromise that kept progressive elements of the reform in place, while addressing concerns.

“I think we tried to strike an important balance that was informed by what we learned from the people we spoke to,” Kaminsky told The Point.

The Senate’s proposal eliminates all cash bail, but adds to the list of crimes for which a suspect can be held, and expands judicial discretion. It’s not a bill, yet, and has a long way to go before it becomes part of the final budget at the end of March. That was particularly clear Wednesday, as activists and Assembly Democrats spoke out against the Senate plan. 

“It took a lot of work to get to this proposal, but it still needs to be enacted into law,” Kaminsky said. “There’s still a lot of work that has to get done.”

On Wednesday, Heastie said he wasn’t surprised by the Senate’s move, and suggested it was too early to change a law that had just gone into effect. “You need real data, real information, not cherry-picked stories and sensationalized events to try to paint a picture as to whether the law is working or not,” Heastie said. “I think that we should be cautious and wait for data before we react to anything.”

Of whether he felt undermined by Stewart-Cousins, Heastie said: “I’m a big boy. I’m fine.”

Cuomo, meanwhile, said in a radio interview that he wanted to “separate the politics and the fear from the facts,” but also noted that the State Senate’s proposal was “my original plan I put forth last year.”

Perhaps that perspective will make it easier for Cuomo to push the additional changes across the finish line.

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

Bloomberg’s ad barrage

Michael Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk record and his blunt defense of the practice in a 2015 video is getting a lot of scrutiny at the same time that he is running a raft of ads meant to soften his image with crucial African-American voters. 

Some of the rhetoric, visible in Facebook’s ad archive, is remarkably transactional. 

“Mike will work for black Americans,” says one ad. “He’ll double black-owned businesses and invest $70 billion in black communities.”

Another ad says Bloomberg will “fight to end mass incarceration.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful also is blanketing airwaves with ads suggesting the admiration of former President Barack Obama. “President Obama and Mike Bloomberg worked together in the fight for gun safety laws. They know true leadership is bringing people together with sensible solutions.”

The millions Bloomberg’ is spending might account for his rise in national polling numbers among black voters, key for Super Tuesday. On Wednesday, he also promoted the backing of three members of the Congressional Black Caucus — including Rep. Greg Meeks, who The Point reported Tuesday was ready to endorse the former mayor. 

Meanwhile in New York, the campaign is working on another strategy to pull votes from competitors: reminding registered Empire State voters that they can switch their party registration to vote in New York’s Democratic primary, as long as they do so by Friday. 

“We want everyone interested in voting in New York’s Democratic primary to have the opportunity to do so,” said John Calvelli, the campaign’s New York State director, in a statement. “To beat Donald Trump, voter turnout is critical.”

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Stop and frisk and vote

Mike Luckovich

Mike Luckovich

For more cartoons, visit

Final Point

Gathering forces

Bridget Fleming on Wednesday gained the endorsement of Rep. Kathleen Rice in her bid for the 1st Congressional District’s Democratic nomination to take on Rep. Lee Zeldin. 

”Bridget is a public servant and former prosecutor who has dedicated her entire life to fighting for her community," said Rice, a former Nassau County district attorney, in a statement released to The Point.

The Garden City Democrat has met with Fleming as well as Democratic hopefuls Nancy Goroff, a Stony Brook University scientist, and Perry Gershon, the East Hampton businessman who ran against and lost to Zeldin in 2018. 

Meanwhile on Wednesday, Goroff unveiled endorsements from Reps. Lois Frankel of Florida, Jan Schakowsky and Bill Foster of Illinois, and Jerry McNerney of California. 

Gershon has received contributions from New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, who is a member of House Democratic leadership. 

Besides the endorsement, Rice is also hosting a meet-and-greet for Fleming in D.C. on Wednesday to help the Suffolk County legislator do some Washington networking. 

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Bonus Point

Double up

A coalition of environmental groups, water suppliers and wastewater treatment operators descended on Albany Wednesday to lobby for, what else, money.

They’re seeking $1 billion for clean water infrastructure, double the $500 million in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposed budget. Advocates said they based that figure on a state Department of Health estimate that new treatment technologies needed to filter out PFOS, PFOA and 1,4-dioxane from drinking water would cost $1.5 billion.

“That’s a statewide number, but this is a statewide campaign,” Citizens Campaign for the Environment executive director Adrienne Esposito told The Point.

Treatment for 1,4-dioxane can cost $1 million to $4 million per well, and carbon filtration needed for PFOS and PFOA ranges from $750,000 to $900,000. The state has been giving grants to districts — including as much as $15 million announced in December for 37 Long Island wells with excess amounts of those chemicals. “It’s great that it has led to only slight rate increases instead of big increases because they’ve been able to get the grants,” Esposito said. “It’s kept water affordable.”

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months