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Opinion

Building the Empire State

Nassau County Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs speaks

Nassau County Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs speaks during the Nassau County Nominating Convention on Tuesday May 22, 2018 in Garden City. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Daily Point

Cuomo appoints a general

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s choice of Jay Jacobs to lead New York’s Democratic Party is mostly about 2020. That doesn’t mean that keeping the new State Senate majority balanced between its urban and suburban constituents isn’t also top of mind.  

Nor does it mean Cuomo, himself, is seeking the presidential nomination, but it does mean he wants to position himself as a powerbroker in determining who does.

This is a new tact for a Cuomo governor, both Mario and Andrew, who never believed in a strong state party, viewing it solely as a fundraising arm.

Jacobs, who remains Nassau County Democratic chair, told The Point that he will focus on unifying and strengthening New York Dems on the Democratic National Committee, in the presidential selection process and at the convention.

“New York Democrats speaking with one voice can be quite powerful,” he said. Translated that means whatever Cuomo’s 2020 strategy turns out to be, the governor will have the troops to send into battleground states and a war chest at the ready.

Another prominent New York Democrat who is also a national player, put it this way,“If the governor endorses [Joe] Biden, he’ll want to deliver the state for him in a big way.”

Jacobs received a call Wednesday from Cuomo asking him to be the chair. He said they agreed on a plan that  starts with building up the state party through its county operations -- and that the first priority is winning local legislative races, including in Nassau County this fall.

Jacobs said he also wants New York’s representatives on the DNC to be unified as the national party sets the nominating guidelines for 2020. A longtime delegate, Jacobs has disapproved of the loose rules in states that use the caucus system to select a primary winner, a system that largely helped Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016. He would like the DNC to make the process more rigorous when it reviews the rules to determine how each state selects a primary candidate.

Other state Democrats said Jacobs was the inevitable choice having delivered the State Senate to Democratic control, and that as state chair he can remind the delegation that the priorities of suburban voters aren’t always the same as city voters.

“Jay delivered the State Senate to the Democrats and now he has to watch those members who have no experience and who will need a lot of support,” said one Democrat.

Mineola, Albany and Washington, that’s a lot of campfires that will need tending by Jacobs.

Rita Ciolli

Talking Point

Seeing Penn through new eyes

Change is coming to Penn Station.

As rush hour began to wind down Monday morning, The Point took a tour of Penn Station with Janet Campbell-Lorenc, Amtrak’s senior director of the Northeast Corridor Service Line.

Seeing the station through her eyes is seeing what’s possible for the dreary, dingy pit  -- both in small customer-focused changes and in bigger ones now under discussion or in planning stages.

But for now, many of the changes won’t affect Long Island Rail Road riders -- not yet, anyway.

First up: a full renovation of ClubAcela, the lounge tucked in the corner of the central Amtrak hall for first-class passengers, pass holders and other frequent travelers. Once that makeover’s done, though, Amtrak will turn to its main waiting area, a tired space now divided in half by steel barriers, and used by both Amtrak and NJ Transit customers. It’ll be opened up into a larger space, with new chairs and lighting, a designated area for families with young children, and tables with charging ports. And, the Seventh Avenue entrance to the space, long closed for staffing and other reasons, finally will be opened, too. Expect that work to start in late spring.

Then there are the platforms. As an Amtrak train roared into the station, Campbell-Lorenc showed how smaller fixes in the works could make a difference -- like new LED lighting, resurfaced platform floors, new finishes on the columns, and far better signage and displays. That’ll help all commuters into Penn, including LIRR riders -- but will also mean more track and platform closings come 2020.

All of that comes as the work on Moynihan Train Hall across the street, and efforts to make further improvements to the Long Island Rail Road’s corridors and concourse, continue. But Campbell-Lorenc has bigger plans for Penn itself. She’s working with NJ Transit and the MTA to get broader redevelopment underway at the station. That’ll mean soliciting ideas through a formal process -- something she hopes will happen in the near future.

But as she navigated the corridors Monday, Campbell-Lorenc voiced a cautionary note.

“Of course we want improvements,” she said. “But it’s never simple.”

Randi F. Marshall

Pencil Point

In desperate need

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Quick Points

Gathering forces

  • As part of her preparation for declaring a run for president in 2020, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is hiring staff and traveling around the country. No word on when she’s going to visit Long Island.
  • Two more Democrats have joined the 2020 presidential race — Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and former U.S. housing secretary Julian Castro, thereby erasing any doubt that this contest is totally wide open.
  • President Donald Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, making an argument to examine and if necessary amend the report being prepared by special counsel Robert Mueller and his team, said, “They’re not God, after all. They could be wrong.” Not so far.
  • Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King asked last week why the terms “white nationalism” and “white supremacist” were offensive. After the uproar, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he would take action. McCarthy didn’t explain why no one took action after King’s first 50 remarks like that.
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says he hasn’t ruled out a presidential run in 2020. That’s OK, Bill, plenty of other people have ruled it out for you.
  • In front of Democratic congressional leaders, President Donald Trump criticized White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney for his handling of shutdown talks. What did you expect, Trump to serve as his own scapegoat?

Michael Dobie

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