LIer eyed for key state development job
Hochul talking to Kevin Law about ESD post
As Gov. Kathy Hochul seeks to solidify her downstate support she is looking for a Long Islander to head the Empire State Development and is eyeing former Long Island Association head Kevin Law, The Point has learned.
Hochul, who has been governor for less than a month, has spoken to Law about the job but is also looking at other local business leaders as well, Albany insiders said.
Both the governor’s press office and Law declined to comment on any discussions.
ESD is a state authority that dispenses financial awards, tax credits and other assistance to boost business development and create jobs. To date, Hochul has tapped Manhattan State Sen. Brian Benjamin as her lieutenant governor and other appointments in her administration hail from upstate. Long Island is not only a key regional economy, it is an important, if unfamiliar, political base for Hochul, especially if she is challenged from the left in a Democratic primary next year.
Interestingly, she already had a Long Islander in the job. Pat Foye had been named interim ESD head by Andrew M. Cuomo in June as the former governor shook up the leadership at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority where Foye was a leader for four years. But Foye, who held the ESD job under Eliot Spitzer, decided to step away from the post after Hochul succeeded Cuomo in late August, saying she "deserves an opportunity to build her own team." ESD will be a key agency in redeveloping Penn Station and expanding the High Line to connect with the Moynihan Train Hall, keeping the Buffalo Bills playing in Hochul’s hometown, developing the offshore wind industry, creating new economic activity at the Nassau Hub and distributing a huge tranche of federal funding from Washington.
Hochul knows Law from his tenure at the LIA, which he left in February after 10 years to become executive vice president of Tritec Real Estate, where he is heading an effort to build affordable housing. The Point could not nail down the other Long Island names in the mix for the post but Law emerging at the top of the list is not a surprise. He has been tapped by the past four governors for roles, George Pataki named him to a judicial screening team, Spitzer made him head of the Long Island Power Authority and David Paterson appointed Law to the Stony Brook University Council. Cuomo named Law a co-chair of ESD’s Long Island Regional Planning Council. And Law is Suffolk County’s representative on the MTA board.
— Rita Ciolli @ritaciolli
A different voice at the LIRR
When it comes to the Long Island Rail Road, one labor union representative doesn’t speak for all labor unions.
And that became particularly apparent on the issue of the COVID-19 vaccine this week.
Ricardo Sanchez, general chairman of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 589, told The Point Friday that he was bothered by comments made by Metropolitan Transportation Authority board representative Vincent Tessitore, Jr. this week.
Tessitore, Long Island labor’s representative on the board, said he expected LIRR workers might quit rather than take the vaccine and urged the authority to "give the membership enough time" before issuing any further requirements to be vaccinated.
"There is nobody quitting the Long Island Rail Road if they mandate this, absolutely not," Sanchez, who represents 1,000 LIRR electrical workers, told The Point. "And if somebody wants to leave because we mandate the vaccine, good luck and good riddance."
Tessitore is vice general chairman of the Sheet Metal Air Rail Transportation Union’s transportation division — just one of ten different LIRR unions. Anthony Simon, the SMART general chairman, declined to comment when reached by The Point.
Sanchez said that while Tessitore and Simon are seen as the public voices of the LIRR workers, "there’s no consensus, there’s no coalition."
"He does not speak for us," Sanchez said.
Sanchez, who was vaccinated in January, said he has been pushing his members to get the shot. He has sent newsletters to his members saying the "one thing that cannot be in dispute is its effectiveness."
Sanchez said had he been at the MTA board table this week, his message would have been different, embracing a mandate had the board sought to move in that direction.
"I would have sat there and said, ‘The... silent majority [of workers have been vaccinated and] are protected. You make the decision and protect all employees and we will follow your lead because we believe in the vaccination.’"
Added Sanchez: "If the MTA would make a decision, we would follow. As long as it’s in line with the law, we would be 100 percent behind it… There shouldn’t be a debate."
Sanchez noted that the MTA has offered incentives for workers to be vaccinated, but that he has told MTA officials that those efforts have gone as far as they can go.
"I said, ‘The carrot’s done. It’s time for the stick."
— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall
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Bowing to complaints, Hochul douses a Cuomo fire
An uphill lobbying drive supported by Long Island families of the disabled, aimed at altering a state policy on their choice of subsidized care facilities, appears to have succeeded largely due to a change of governors.
Gene DeSantis, an Albany-based lawyer who has long advocated on the issue, called the response from the Hochul administration a "breath of fresh air" that’s expected to resolve their complaints against the Cuomo administration.
"It’s very fair. It’s the right thing to do," DeSantis told The Point Friday after Assembly members involved in the issue said the administration informed them of the change.
The dispute involves the ins and outs of bureaucratic and procedural practice.
In 2014, a law was enacted giving parents the right to challenge the "appropriate placement" for their disabled children who have reached 21 years of age. That is, parents have a due process right to challenge whether a placement chosen by the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities meets their inherently complicated individual needs.
But these families charge that as part of a cost-saving move, the OPWDD sent out letters informing them their kin would be going to the fenced-in Sunmount Facility in Franklin County in the Adirondacks — and the only alternative would be to lose funding.
The way it works is that when disabled individuals turn 21, interim "emergency funding" for them begins. But DeSantis said that "if OPWDD transfers these young adults before the emergency funding begins, then the parents don’t have a right to contest the OPWDD placements. Essentially the agency becomes the sole arbiter of what is appropriate."
That’s what they’ve been doing, getting the transfers done first, he said.
Aides to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signaled no flexibility on the matter. Now the Hochul administration is moving to fix that, DeSantis said, and allow time for proper assessments of what facility is most appropriate to meet a person’s needs.
Michele and Joe Atkinson of Holtsville said in a recently published piece that their son Joseph "battles autism, ADHD, OCD and severe anxiety that can cause him to become violent toward others."
"Joseph cycled through 18 different schools before finding a facility in Massachusetts (the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center) where, at long last, he is thriving," they wrote. But before his June 25 graduation, the state agency "’offered’ Joseph placement back in-state, despite available options at JRC.
"The agency that’s supposed to help people like Joseph get the services they need to manage their disabilities gave us only two weeks to consider. When we declined, New York cut off Joseph’s funding."
Now the state is expected to change policies to allow a due-process period, DeSantis said.
Whatever the merits of the change in policy, chalk it up as one public fire that the new administration, with wider management and budget challenges ahead, has put out.
— Dan Janison @Danjanison