Burning up in Albany
Even as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo spent his Monday morning pushing for a permanent property tax cap, with key players like Long Island Association chief executive Kevin Law by his side, it seems one of the hottest issues in Albany right now isn’t the tax cap, or congestion pricing, or even the legalization of marijuana.
It’s prevailing wage.
The bill that’s on a lot of minds would require prevailing wage to be paid on any project that receives state funding or support. That would include any development that gets industrial development agency benefits, or those that get money from the regional economic development councils.
Developers, business advocates and others say that would be devastating to Long Island, as it would make it far more difficult to build multifamily and affordable housing. They note that it also would adversely affect nonprofit organizations looking to expand or build.
So, advocates from the LIA, the Long Island Builders Institute, the Association for a Better Long Island and others are galvanizing. According to LIBI chief Mitch Pally, there’ve been more meetings and conversations on the prevailing wage issue than any other in his nine-year tenure at the helm of the institute.
It’s rare that a bill with such broad local opposition would count among its sponsors four Long Island State Senate Democrats. But this one does, as Sens. James Gaughran, John Brooks, Monica Martinez and Anna Kaplan are all co-sponsors of the legislation.
Gaughran told The Point Monday that he co-sponsored the legislation so he could “have a seat at the table, and make sure Long Island had a seat at the table.” He said he sees the current bill as a “first draft.” That way, Gaughran said, “We could have a dialogue between business leaders and the labor community so we can come up with good legislation.”
Martinez, similarly, said she wants to have a voice on the bill, but she recognizes the need to make changes so that future affordable housing and economic development aren’t stymied.
For now, the goal of those who oppose the bill is simple: Get the prevailing wage legislation out of the immediate budget negotiations, which have fewer than three weeks to go. Instead, put it off until after the budget is done. Martinez told The Point she agreed with that strategy as a way to make sure everyone can be heard and all questions are answered.
“This should be business and labor trying to address each other’s concerns, coming up with something both sides can live with,” Law told The Point. “That doesn’t happen in two weeks with no public hearings.”
Randi F. Marshall
Lunch with NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson made a splash last week with his 104-page argument for city control of subways and buses. It’s certainly one of the broadest proposals to change the MTA in recent years.
The plan isn’t supported by Mayor Bill de Blasio or Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who effectively controls the MTA; both recently came out with their own joint reform plan.
But Johnson, who seems to be eyeing a mayoral run in 2021, is looking to build public support for his plan--including a couple hundred dollars spent on targeted Facebook ads asking users to add their names and join him in the fight.
In a conversation with The Point on Monday, Johnson called his fight a “long-term project.”
“I don't see this happening this session, probably not next session, but again it's laying the groundwork, setting the table, selling the plan and having conversations about why this is a worthy goal,” the Manhattan Democrat said.
Asked whether some funding from congestion pricing should be siphoned off to the commuter railroads, Johnson said, “I don't think that should be the city's starting offer given the crisis that subways and buses face on a day-to-day basis.”
He noted that many suburban commuters also use the city system when they arrive, and would benefit from improvements there, which would help the regional economy.
But he said he was sure that suburban legislators “will need to see some dedicated funds to Metro-North and to the Long Island Rail Road. That's probably just the political reality of it."
The Point also asked Johnson, who met with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren when she visited NYC last week, who he thought would win the New York State presidential primary if it were held tomorrow.
He demurred, but said that he was looking for a candidate who ties together issues of "economic justice, social justice, with big bold ideas that inspires voters, just like President Obama did in 2008.”
During the primaries, he said, “The cream will rise to the top."
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