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GOP touches a live wire
The New York GOP tried a new line of attack in its forever-war with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, this time about his humanitarian efforts in Puerto Rico, where parts of the island have been without electricity for months.
State Republican Party chairman Ed Cox issued a statement Tuesday asking how many New York electric crews were on the island while thousands of New Yorkers were without power after last week’s nor’easter.
“Once again, Andrew Cuomo is putting his presidential ambitions above the needs of New Yorkers,” Cox said in part.
State GOP spokeswoman Jessica Proud followed up on Twitter, saying she was hearing “from Westchester residents” that “Con-Ed has been telling customers they have limited crews bc of Puerto Rico deployment.”
No outage is easy for customers, and more preparation by utilities is the best way to prevent outages like these. Industry sources say Con Edison was thinking about the crews in Puerto Rico: Some workers on the island were packing their bags before getting word over the weekend that they should stay put.
Perhaps that was because the utility had enough workers in Westchester County: more than 1,900, a spokesman said on Tuesday, including 500 workers called in via mutual-aid agreements from places including Canada, Texas and Wisconsin.
By contrast, the utility has about 120 workers and 108 contractors in Puerto Rico, where they have led the way to restore power on the hurricane-hit island.
New York’s aid and expertise have been praised by officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Puerto Rico, but the state GOP seems to have a more narrow focus: flailing to criticize Cuomo in an election year — even if that puts the party at risk of appearing to begrudge people in need.
‘I almost fell off my chair’
The annual lobbying day in Albany always creates its share of surprises, and Tuesday’s excursion to the state capital was no exception for the Long Island delegation.
One issue that was discussed wasn’t even on the agenda for the group of 40 or so advocates. It was pitched to them during the final session of the day, when staff members from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office said they were looking at the possibility of creating a health insurance group plan for nonprofit organizations.
“I almost fell off my chair with joy,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment and one of the lobbying effort’s organizers. “For us at CCE, it’s practically putting us out of business.”
Esposito said costs have risen so rapidly that some of her staffers are choosing inferior plans because of their affordability. A group plan presumably would lower premiums.
Another surprise, Esposito said, was the reception she and her peers received from Long Island’s Republican State Senate delegation. “They were extremely receptive to all the issues,” Esposito said. “It felt like there was more dialogue with the senators. They were definitely more engaged and responsive than they have been.”
Election Day is eight months away.
Over the landfill and through the swamp
Putting a move on congestion pricing
In a sign that support is widening for a congestion-pricing plan in New York City, a coalition of union, environmental, transportation, regional planning, real estate and business leaders is beginning a monthlong advertising and public relations campaign.
The goal: To persuade Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the State Legislature to include a full congestion-pricing plan in this year’s budget — one that includes a daily toll for drivers in Manhattan’s central business district and a surcharge on for-hire vehicles, with the revenue to be invested in mass transit. So far, Cuomo’s budget amendments do not go that far, including far smaller items, like pilot programs on expanded enforcement and studies of software and infrastructure needed for the for-hire surcharge.
“The coalition supports the plan in its entirety, and that’s what we’ll be pushing for,” a spokesman for the effort told The Point.
Organizations with diverse interests like Uber, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Real Estate Board of New York, and 32BJ SEIU, which represents property service workers, will spend at least $500,000 on the campaign, which will begin with a series of digital ads starting Wednesday.
Will that be enough to overcome the political gridlock?
Randi F. Marshall