Long Island’s Democratic State Senate delegation got front-row seats at a special meeting of the Long Island Association Friday, when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo described the benefits to the region in his proposed 2019 budget.
But the six senators, who are key to the party’s majority in the chamber, suddenly became sitting ducks for Cuomo’s ire over reports that Amazon might be reconsidering its decision to locate a new headquarters in Queens.
“I would not want to be a Democratic state senator explaining why Amazon left,” said an angry Cuomo, who glared at the senators. The lawmakers, who expected a bit of a scolding for not being more strategic this legislative session to make the state property tax cap permanent, were blindsided by having the responsibility for Amazon thrown on their laps, too.
On the way to the noon LIA event Cuomo learned of a Washington Post story that said Amazon appears ready to walk away from a heralded new second headquarters in Long Island City and instead would site more of its expanded operation in Virginia. Since Amazon’s Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post, the story resonated with a clearly upset Cuomo who spent much of his visit with Newsday’s editorial board after the event describing his deep concerns.
Cuomo had predicted this week that Amazon could walk away from New York City after Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins named Sen. Mike Gianaris, her second-in-command and an outspoken opponent of the Amazon plan, to a state board with veto power over the deal.
The governor also made it clear that he wouldn’t be shy about assigning blame for the loss of an estimated 25,000 jobs. It would be “governmental malpractice,” by Senate Democrats if Amazon left, Cuomo said.
Afterward, Sen. Todd Kaminsky told The Point that senators recognize their role in the Democratic caucus to advocate for the project. “We all want to get there. People expect us to make progress on the economy and grow jobs,” Kaminsky said. “We take it seriously.”
Even more so, perhaps, when 500 people witness your collective whack in the head.
Bill’s new BFF?
One of the big Republican tactics during last year’s bitter State Senate elections was to tie Long Island Democratic challengers to big bad New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Together, the attacks went, de Blasio and his Democratic suburban friends were coming for your school funding and set on a “radical New York City agenda.”
State Sen. James Gaughran ended up winning and withstanding those attacks, like the Facebook ad with a photoshopped image of Gaughran and de Blasio smiling together next to a pile of money.
Gaughran says he’s never met or spoken to de Blasio, but that will change on Monday.
That’s when de Blasio is expected to appear at a joint budget hearing on local government in Hearing Room B of the Legislative Office Building in Albany. Gaughran is chair of the local government committee.
Don’t expect much muttering next to piles of money, though, just a question or two.
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(Middle) Class act
As income inequality ravages America and politicians of all stripes pay homage to the disappearing middle class, it’s worth noting that some in Long Island’s middle class once felt the need to organize themselves for protection.
Newsday’s editorial board wrote about the effort on Feb. 8, 1945.
“A group of Long Island citizens have banded together to organize the Great American Middle Class into a unit that can make its voice heard distinctly in the national forums; a figure, so to speak, that will stand between the jaws of the Capital-Labor vise and help keep them from squeezing the life out of the unorganized masses,” the board wrote.
The group, led by one Ellery W. Thompson of Rockville Centre, allied itself with an umbrella organization called the United White Collar Majority Inc., and sought to make sure its interests were reflected in legislation.
“Nothing is healthier for a nation than to have a large middle class,” the board wrote, a view still evoked today. That class, the board said, is “neither so rich as to be above the effects of legislation nor so poor as to be suckers for anybody who comes along with a pie-in-the-sky economic theory.”
Demagogues often come to power “after the middle class has been squeezed out,” the board wrote. “That is the road to totalitarianism.”
As for who comprised the middle class back then, the board referred to “small business men, clerks and professional men,” people whose “principal distinguishing feature is the negative one of not belonging to the associations of Labor, Capital, and Industry ...” The editorial board saw them as the region’s principal consumers, strongly interested in taxes, wages and prices.
The definition, of course, proved malleable. Tens of millions of middle-class Americans later turned out to be members of labor unions who shared all those concerns.
The board’s conclusion is worth thinking about 74 years later:
“Middle-class people are the ones who stand on the teeter-board between Right and Left, and keep our system in balance.”