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No pastrami for you
Just when you thought state Democrats had achieved a fragile truce over the control of the State Senate, Mayor Bill de Blasio threw a grenade at the governor and the Independent Democratic Conference.
“This is getting to be a charade,” de Blasio said Thursday, a day after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo maneuvered IDC leader Jeff Klein and the Democratic Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins into a “unity” plan this spring, after Albany negotiates a budget. That’s when Cuomo would call for special elections to fill two vacant Senate seats, which most everyone assumes will stay in Democratic hands.
However, progressive groups such as Indivisible and the Working Families Party want Democrats to come together sooner, and the first opportunity would be at the final stages of getting a budget in place. Negotiations are expected to be especially difficult this year because of shrinking revenues.
George Latimer and Ruben Diaz Sr., the two senators who are moving on to other elective offices, are not expected to resign until Jan. 1. Once there are official vacancies, Cuomo can call a special election, which under state law must happen no fewer than 70 days and no more than 80 days from his request. In theory, if the governor calls the special election as quickly as possible, say Jan. 2, the elections can happen as soon as March 12. The state budget must be completed by April 1.
Assuming Democrats win the two Senate seats, and the IDC and the mainline Dems come together, they will have 31 votes. The Republicans have 31, but control the gavel in the 63-seat chamber because of Brooklyn’s Simcha Felder, who won re-election last year with the Republican, Democratic and Conservative ballot lines. Such a scenario would make the irascible and totally transactional Felder the most powerful lawmaker in Albany. There is little chance that Cuomo would allow that to happen.
Felder, who is well versed in playing both parties against each other to get what he wants for his conservative Orthodox Jewish constituents, held up budget negotiations last year because he reportedly wanted a cop in every classroom and more money for yeshivas.
Albany budget negotiations would go from three men in a room to a three-ring circus as Felder bargains with all sides. As Felder recently told The New York Times: “It’s about the bottom line. It’s about bringing home the pastrami.”
Ladies get loud
New York’s female representatives in Congress are certainly making national waves this week. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Thursday finally came around to telling John Conyers he should resign, a day after Rep. Kathleen Rice of Garden City criticized Pelosi at a Democratic caucus meeting for initially defending Conyers, who has been accused of sexual misbehavior.
And Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is at the heart of another hot Democratic dispute after she endorsed Marie Newman in an Illinois primary challenge to seven-term incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski, who is about as far right a Democrat as can be found in the House. Lipinski’s suburban Chicago seat is comfortably blue and unlikely to change parties regardless of who wins the primary. Lipinski, who is anti-abortion, has long been a target of feminist and progressive Democrats.
The senator’s salvo into intraparty warfare is not sitting well with the conservative House Blue Dog Coalition, to which Gillibrand belonged when she represented an upstate district. Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader, who was at those Blue Dog meetings with Lipinski and Gillibrand, told McClatchy News Service that the New Yorker’s move smacked of political opportunism. “It’s bullshit,” he said.
No nap for the subway that never sleeps
Shut down the New York City subway system during overnight hours?
Yes, indeed, the Regional Plan Association said Thursday morning.
Not so fast, its chairman, Scott Rechler, said just hours later.
The proposal, which the RPA unveiled in its fourth regional plan Thursday, drew immediate blowback from city residents and elected officials alike, including from Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said 24/7 subway service is New Yorkers’ “birthright.”
By early afternoon, Rechler, who heads RXR Realty and sits on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, took to Twitter to attempt to get out of the awkward situation. Certain lines might need to stop running briefly to speed up efforts to improve the system, he wrote. “However, New York City is, and always will be, the City that never sleeps, and that includes our subways.”
Randi F. Marshall