County Executive Steve Bellone is setting up a confrontation with Suffolk’s town supervisors by appointing Jo-Anne Taormina as the county’s new head of Civil Service. An announcement of the appointment is expected later Friday.
Taormina, the former chief of staff in the Town of North Hempstead, would replace entrenched head Alan Schneider, whose latest six-year term expired earlier this week.
Schneider, who can work magic on civil service disputes, has refused to accede to Bellone’s request that he step down and has the support of Suffolk County Democratic leader Rich Schaffer.
Schneider, who has served for more than three decades, is the ultimate insider with jurisdiction over more than 47,000 Civil Service appointments across all of Suffolk’s layers of government.
A gift for the GOP
Call it LI-IDC but in the aftermath of the stunning Amazon breakup, the leadership of the Democratic majority in the State Senate faces the very real possibility of having to contend with a discontented group in their midst.
Long Island’s Democratic senators are furious with Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and even more so with her deputy, State Sen. Mike Gianaris, for sinking the deal to save their political hides. With the leadership bowing to the party’s far left, the Long Island members fear they are being blamed for nixing a deal many of their constituents wanted.
“From what I am hearing from Long Island voters, there is a great dissatisfaction with the Democratic Senate. We need to fix that,” said Jay Jacobs, head of both state and Nassau County Democrats.
Meanwhile, Republicans are licking their chops. Suffolk County GOP chair John Jay LaValle told The Point he can see the campaign flyers with photos of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Stewart-Cousins labeled anti-business.
“This is going to be the gift that keeps on giving,” said LaValle, predicting 2020 will be “Brian Foley and Craig Johnson all over again.”
“We warned that this would happen if the Democrats took control, and it only took six weeks for them to prove us right.”
LaValle was referring to 2008, when Democrats won a two-vote majority in the State Senate only to see it evaporate in the next election as Long Islanders punished Foley and Johnson because of their votes in favor of an MTA payroll tax. Since then, Democrats suffered as back benchers in part because a contingent of moderate Democrats aligned themselves with the Republican majority, a group known as the Independent Democratic Conference. The 2018 election changed all that when eight new Democrats won, including four from Long Island. Two LI Democratic incumbents, Todd Kaminsky and John Brooks, were returned to office as well.
No one is predicting that any Democrats will re-align with Republicans. Senate Democrats have control by a sizeable margin, 39-24. However, if the Long Island six align themselves with at least two others, likely senators from similarly moderate swing suburbs such as Buffalo or the Hudson Valley, a suburban conference could demand its priorities get attention. And that could mean stalling bills the New York City delegation wants until a deal is made with the Assembly on a permanent property tax cap and increased school funding.
“They will now have more pressure to deliver on school aid and other items in the budget than before,” said Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association.
A huge loss
Thursday morning, a few dozen Long Island business and economic leaders, including the leaders of Long Island’s various industrial development agencies, gathered at the Long Island Association’s offices, primarily to discuss prevailing-wage legislation pending in Albany.
Suddenly, LIA vice president Matt Cohen pushed his phone toward president Kevin Law. An alert on the screen showed the bad news: Amazon had decided to pull out of its New York headquarters plans. Law told the group.
“It was like I had just announced a huge death in the family,” Law said.
Long Island Builders Institute chief executive Mitch Pally said there was silence and shock, followed by a lengthy conversation among the key players in Long Island’s economic development. Suddenly, prevailing wage took a backseat to what the ramifications of Amazon’s decision would be for Long Island. “I think the general sense was that it was a tremendous loss for New York State and for Long Island,” Pally said.
Law said by noon, he had already begun hearing from local business executives wondering why they should stay on Long Island, or others who had been indecisive saying that Amazon’s choice made a decision to leave easier.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran was in a meeting, too, when she heard, and she slammed the table with her hand -- hard, she said.
Amazon, she said, would have helped the sales pitch, both to encourage municipalities to build transit-oriented developments and to encourage businesses to settle and grow here.
“This would have made it easier for us to build the brand. We could have done it more quickly,” Curran told The Point. “It’s an uphill battle. If Amazon had been able to come here successfully, they would have given other employers hope that they could do it here, too.”
Randi F. Marshall
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The Amazon effect
Will Amazon’s departure affect NYC’s Feb. 26 special election for NYC public advocate?
The crowded field is full of deal opponents, and some like former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Queens Assemb. Ron Kim released celebratory statements after the deal fell through.
The gist is what activist and candidate Nomiki Konst tweeted Thursday: “BREAKING: The deal is dead. We killed the Amazon deal,” and “Na na na na...na na na na...Hey hey hey... GOODBYE.”
These candidates seem to be angling for the most left-leaning slot to take advantage of a progressive mood in NYC. Much of last week’s campaign debate centered around the candidates trying to prove themselves further left than Mayor Bill de Blasio.
But it could be that with the Amazon deal already scuttled, deal opponents won’t be so moved to get out and vote due to that issue. That would benefit Queens Councilman Eric Ulrich, a Republican who called Amazon’s prospective arrival “wonderful” in last week’s debate. And, perhaps, Bronx Assemb. Michael Blake, who has maintained a relatively balanced stance on Amazon, criticizing the company for leaving while calling for “leadership” on workforce development.
The Point will return on Tuesday, Feb. 19. We hope you have a great Presidents Day weekend!