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Albany pay-raise chatter

New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie of the

New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx has refused to commit to ethics reforms in return for pay raises for members of the State Senate and Assembly. Credit: AP / Hans Pennink

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Daily Point

Pay raise pandemonium

In the latest example of political strange bedfellows and Albany insanity, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, and outgoing GOP State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan are furious that their devious plan in April to get pay raises has backfired.

Now, Albany is rife with chatter about a stunning scheme to thwart the recommendations of the pay raise commission the two leaders snuck into the budget last year to avoid having their members vote on a pay raise. Now, they are talking about voting for a pay raise.

Not satisfied with lawmakers getting big raises -- from $79,500 to $130,000 over three years -- Heastie is furious that the commission decided last week to tie the money to eliminating all but nine lulus, or stipends, for Assembly members, instead of everyone getting extra lard in their paychecks.

Flanagan lauded the bigger paycheck but he blasted the commission earlier this week for overstepping its bounds when it capped outside income starting in 2020. Insiders say Flanagan, after canvassing his members about the commission report, is concerned that those who got re-elected amid this year’s Democratic surge might stay for the new session and bolt at the end of 2019. Special elections would then be needed to fill out the remainder of those terms, and there’s concern that a weakened and depleted GOP would struggle filling those seats.

So Flanagan and Heastie are raising the possibility of a special session before the end of this month to reject the pay raise commission report and then turn around and vote themselves gigantic pay raises without any strings attached.

Albany sources tell The Point that the problem is Flanagan does not have the 32 votes and would need some votes from State Senate Democrats. But Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the incoming Senate majority leader who supported raises with restrictions, thinks it would be “political suicide” for the Democrats to go along with the plot.

The plot makes no sense, time wise. Even if lawmakers did rush into a special session to kill the commission recommendations, and pass a new pay hike, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has his pen ready to veto it, at say, 11:55 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. But GOP sources say Republicans can then override the veto before the new lawmakers are sworn in by Jan. 9. Nope, say Senate Democrats. Flanagan may have the gavel until a leadership vote on the floor but the newly elected members technically start on Jan. 1 and Senate Democrats want no part of it.

It may be wintertime, but the hell in Albany never freezes over.

Rita Ciolli

Talking Point

The Hub moving forward

Could development at the Nassau Hub be on the verge of taking a step… forward?

The Nassau County Legislature is expected to vote Monday on whether to allow developers Scott Rechler, of RXR Realty, and Brett Yormark, of BSE Global, to move forward with plans to remake the land around Nassau Coliseum. Until the last few days, there’ve been concerns about how that vote would go, particularly because some Democratic lawmakers, particularly Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams, have expressed concerns about the need for labor and community benefits agreements.

But Majority Leader Richard Nicolello told The Point that he and the other Republican lawmakers are prepared to vote for the project to proceed, noting that “it’s the best chance” to get something built at the site.

And Abrahams told The Point that he’s in a “good place” now, and likely will vote in favor of the lease amendments and development plan agreement that require the legislature’s approval.

Why the change?

Abrahams said Rechler and Yormark have agreed to a “framework” of a community benefits agreement based on a formula tied to the amount of square footage the developers end up building, and have committed to reaching some type of project labor agreement that could allow the Hub development to be built by unionized labor.

“I would say we’re pretty close,” Abrahams told The Point.

Abrahams noted that an advisory committee will be created to work with the developers on exactly what types of community benefits, from recreational facilities to school improvements to other issues, would be sought.

He said he recognized that not every detail could be determined now, because Rechler and Yormark still have to finalize a site plan, arrangements with tenants, and financial agreements with the county, but that there’ve been changes made to the documents to provide reassurances on the key issues.

“Unless we hear something differently, I envision it will be a yes,” Abrahams said of his vote.

Randi F. Marshall

Pencil Point

Just a puppet

Reference Point

Vintage Trump

There is no getting away from Donald Trump these days, at least in the print media. Which got us wondering when Trump first appeared in an editorial written by Newsday’s editorial board. So we started searching our archives for the future president’s debut.

And the answer appears to be: Thirty-four years ago this week, on Dec. 16, 1984, as Newsday was ramping up its coverage of New York City.

Trump back then was pitching a $300 million domed stadium just east of Shea Stadium in Willets Point as part of the city’s quest to lure an NFL team after the Jets’ 1983 decision to join the Giants in New Jersey. Trump was authorized to build the stadium by the administrations of Mayor Ed Koch and Gov. Mario Cuomo but it should come as no surprise that controversy focused on Trump’s financing plan.

Trump, the board wrote, “envisions financing the stadium as a limited condominium, with seats priced at $5,000 for what amounts to a 10-year lease, after which they would revert to Trump. An owner relinquishing a seat for a specific game would share in the proceeds of ticket sales for that seat.”

Few tickets for key games, the board wrote, would be available to the public.

Trump also wanted the city and/or state “to acquire the land, build or upgrade access roads, modernize transit stations at Shea Stadium and provide a variety of tax breaks.”

Newsday’s editorial board deemed both Trump’s plan and a competing version offered by then-Queens Borough President Donald Manes “sketchy” and in need of “careful scrutiny by state and city agencies before a decision is made.”

Trump modified his plan in the months and years that followed before it fell apart for good in 1987, one year after the United States Football League won only $1 in its antitrust lawsuit against the NFL, putting its future in doubt. Trump had been hoping his USFL New Jersey Generals would be accepted into the NFL and play their games in the new stadium. But like every other USFL team, the Generals never played another game after the resolution of the lawsuit.

There was no end, however, to the financing games played by the future president of the United States.

Michael Dobie