Testing the divide
Democrats and Republicans are further apart than ever on many issues, but in Albany, animal rights may no longer be one of them.
A pending bill to prohibit the sale of cosmetics that have been tested on animals is sponsored in the State Senate by vocal progressive Alessandra Biaggi, and is co-sponsored by Bay Shore Republican Phil Boyle.
How did the partnership come about? Boyle tells The Point that animal welfare is something he’s been interested in for more than 30 years, dating back to when he was a legislative aide to Rep. Frank Horton, an upstate Rockefeller Republican, and later when he served as chief of staff for Rep. Rick Lazio from Brightwaters.
Boyle said he urged Horton to introduce a bill addressing the testing issue, but they were stymied by the “power” of the cosmetics and fragrance industries.
He said he tried to ban the practice when the State Senate was controlled by the GOP and technological advances were adding more substitutes for animal cosmetic testing.
The Biaggi bill lists multiple Democratic co-sponsors but only one Republican co-sponsor — Boyle — in the online Senate database. The bill easily made it out of committee this month, and Boyle thinks the bill will pass “unanimously” on the floor. As a sign of its support at different ends of the ideological spectrum, Boyle noted that Jabari Brisport, a Brooklyn socialist, is also a co-sponsor.
Though the cosmetics testing bill was in the works long before Biaggi decided to run for Congress in CD3, it doesn’t hurt to show off some bipartisan credentials while vying to replace Rep. Tom Suozzi, who is now running for governor but still often talks about his work with the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus.
In a statement applauding Boyle’s support, Biaggi said that “[d]espite our partisan differences, we met to discuss the importance of this bill and the ways in which we can use legislative solutions to finally put an end to animal cruelty in New York.”
Boyle gestured toward the same lofty ideals of effective, aisle-crossing government — and some practical politics.
“Whether you’re far left or far right,” he said, no one wants to “see animals suffer.”
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
Democratic primaries: Roles and models
One indication of the lanes Democratic candidates are traveling to win the primary nomination in CD3 can be gleaned from whom they profess to be their political role models.
Six of those seeking the nomination participated earlier this month in a candidate forum hosted by Sound Shore Votes — a Democratic Party-affiliated coalition based in Westchester County. While Long Island comprises almost two-thirds of the likely electorate, with such a big field in the race, all enrolled Democrats in the slivers of the Bronx, Queens, and Westchester that are part of this gerrymandered district will matter in June.
Here are the candidates' replies to the first question of the night about whom they would look to as “role models, allies and guiding influences” and their approaches.
Alessandra Biaggi, of Pelham, a state senator and the only Westchester resident running, cited Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts for demonstrating an “unflinching set of values and integrity” and because she is not afraid to be “bold at the right moment.” Second was Rep. Jerry Nadler, whose district includes swaths of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Suffolk Deputy County Executive Jon Kaiman, even though he had a few minutes to think about the question, said it was something he hadn’t thought about too much, before coming up with Sen. Chuck Schumer for his attention “to local issues.” The former North Hempstead Town supervisor then nodded to Hillary Clinton as a senator who came to the towns to find out what was going on.
For Reema Rasool, a small-business owner from Oyster Bay, it was Rep. Carolyn Maloney of Manhattan because Maloney supports the Green New Deal and she took the time to talk to Rasool about running for Congress.
Josh Lafazan, the Nassau County legislator with a rapid-fire delivery, was able to cite a laundry list of names during his time block. Lafazan said the real leaders were the local mayors, noting that he was already endorsed by 15 of them, and then he said he had met with two representing New Rochelle and Mamaroneck. Former President Barack Obama got a shoutout for his compassion. Interestingly, Lafazan was the only one to mention the person he hopes to succeed in Washington, Rep. Tom Suozzi, for his ability to work across the aisle.
Melanie D’Arrigo, a progressive from Port Washington, cited Rep. Pramila Jayapal, for her work on health care, and Rep. Veronica Escobar of Texas for her work on behalf of immigrants living in the country illegally.
Last to answer was Robert Zimmerman, the veteran communications executive and party leader. Zimmerman turned the question to his network, mentioning Schumer and Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts because of his support for Medicare for All. He then talked about Brooklyn’s Hakeem Jeffries, a member of House leadership, Queens Rep. Grace Meng and two former House members — Westchester’s Nita Lowey who retired in 2021, and Long Island’s Gary Ackerman who stepped down in 2013. Just before the buzzer, Zimmerman name-dropped current Westchester County Executive George Latimer.
The entire forum can be viewed here.
— Rita Ciolli @ritaciolli
An in-your-face remark
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Mount Sinai health system's COVID lessons
The latest addition to the New York literature of COVID-19 retrospection is Deborah Schupack’s “Relentless,” about the Mount Sinai health system’s coronavirus battle.
The book is published by Mount Sinai itself and goes behind the scenes to show the horrors and heroism of the last two years in ICUs around the region, from FaceTime goodbyes to an End of Life Companion Program which sent redeployed staffers to sit with patients as they died, so they wouldn’t be alone.
The main policy suggestion from the book is that integrated health systems like Northwell or Mount Sinai proved crucial to weather the unprecedented storm.
One hospital executive remembers an early 2020 call with then-Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who cited Western movies when a small cornered band is waiting for reinforcements, but is told none is coming.
“Such was the federal response to New York in early March,” Schupack writes.
So the smaller facilities relied on help from their larger network and even rival health care systems. The cooperation meant patients could be moved from crowded hospitals to less overwhelmed ones; staff and resources could be shared; and some materials could even be procured in absence of sufficient governmental help, such as PPE that a Mount Sinai board of trustee co-chair worked to fly in from China.
The hospital mergers and conglomeration had begun years before COVID, with pushes from economic pressures, the Affordable Care Act, and changes in health care itself. But the big systems proved useful now, argues the system’s leaders.
“It became clear in March and April 2020 that if Mount Sinai’s smaller community hospitals had been stand-alone entities, they would have sunk under the weight of too many acutely ill patients, too little staff, and inadequate connection to up-to-the-minute therapeutic protocols,” the book says.
Adhi Sharma, who recently became Mount Sinai South Nassau’s new president, is quoted on the systemic benefits to the Long Island outpost in particular: “We were not a standalone hospital trying to figure this out on our own, fumbling around the dark.”
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano