Hochul goes it alone on subway cops


With help from Shawn Ness

Gov. Kathy Hochul is deploying 1,000 state personnel to New York City subways amid pleas for increased subway safety funding from Mayor Eric Adams and a recent violent attack on a conductor.

In 2016, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo threw another stone in his tit-for-tat war with Mayor Bill de Blasio — he deployed hundreds of New York state troopers on de Blasio’s turf of New York City.

De Blasio blasted Cuomo for it.

Eight years later, with a very different mayor and governor relationship, history seems to be repeating itself, somewhat.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s announcement today that 1,000 state personnel — including 750 national guard troops — will be deployed to the city’s subways comes two weeks after the mayor called on her to add NYPD overtime funding into her executive budget. Adams said it would enable him to put more officers in the city’s subways and restore a now-shuttered Subway Safety program.

But instead of boosting the NYPD’s presence within the system, she stepped in and brought in her own state officers — without changing NYPD funding. It echoes another move by Cuomo in 2019 amid a crime surge in the subways.

The decision by Hochul to rebuff Adams’ request suggests a rare moment of discord for the two executives, who have largely enjoyed the type of amicable intergovernmental relations that eluded their predecessors.

But they said everything is fine.

“I am working in sync with the mayor of New York to protect people on the subways,” Hochul assured reporters during her announcement today when asked where the mayor was.

Hochul’s office had extended an invitation to Adams to be present at the event with her, but Adams said he had a funeral to attend.

“We appreciate the governor’s continued commitment to a safe subway system, and the steps announced today will keep us moving in the right direction,” Adams’ office said in a statement.

“As we continue to surge NYPD officers into the system, we have been in conversations with the governor’s team about identifying additional funding to support this and other efforts to ensure New Yorkers are safe and feel safe.”

Today’s announcement had been on the books at least since Monday morning, when the governor previewed it during a gaggle with reporters.

The move by Hochul to deploy the state cops and spend $20 million for mental health crisis response teams comes after she revealed she learned of Adams’ additional NYPD budget request via news reports and not from the mayor’s office itself.

“I have a strong relationship with the mayor. He came to me with five requests. I granted all five requests within the budget,” Hochul said two weeks ago, referencing the asks for migrant funding, a housing package, enforcement for illegal cannabis shops, an increase in the debt ceiling and a four-year extension of mayoral control of city schools.

“I only became aware that he had this request just from news reports. It has not come to us as a budget request,” she added at the time.

Today, she answered his clarion call for more subway safety funding, just not in the way he wanted. — Jason Beeferman

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman is suing Attorney General Tish James after she issued a cease-and desist-order to him threatening legal action.

BLAKEMAN SUES JAMES: Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman is suing Attorney General Tish James after she sent a cease-and-desist letter to him last week when he issued an executive order banning transgender women from competing on women’s sports teams on county-owned property.

The letter, which James sent to Blakeman on Friday, said that he had five days to rescind the executive order or face legal action. James believes that the executive order is unconstitutional and that it is gender-based discrimination. Blakeman and his team disagrees, saying it is legal because it provides transgender women other avenues to compete.

“To be clear, the Executive Order does not impose a blanket prohibition on transgender individuals from participating in sporting events held at Nassau County facilities,” the lawsuit said. They believe that transgender women, who were once biological males, who compete on women’s teams are an unfair advantage as well as pose serious injury risks to other teammates.

Blakeman said during a press conference this morning that they have many plaintiffs with daughters who want to join the lawsuit.

“Let’s take the New York City Marathon, for example. The New York City Marathon has two classifications: male and female. I don’t see the attorney general attacking them,” Blakeman said. “Quite frankly, there is a reason for those classifications; because males are bigger, stronger and faster, and it wouldn’t be a fair competition for females.”

Blakeman said he welcomes transgender women competing, as long as it is against other men and not in county-run facilities, like parks.

There was no immediate comment to the lawsuit from James’ office. — Shawn Ness

New York City officials want to address an extreme housing crisis as just 1.4 percent of apartments in the city available to rent.

HOUSING SHORTAGE: City officials stressed the need for state legislation to address the severe housing shortage during a City Council hearing today on the results of the latest housing and vacancy survey — which found a citywide rental vacancy rate of just 1.4 percent, with low-cost apartments even scarcer.

“We urgently need action from our partners in Albany to enact a housing agenda to allow us to build and preserve more housing,” Ahmed Tigani, first deputy commissioner of the housing agency, told Council members.

The housing survey plays a key role in the continuation of rent-regulation — another subject of the hearing Wednesday. State law requires the Council to determine periodically whether there’s a housing emergency in the city, defined as a rental vacancy rate under 5 percent, in order to maintain the system.

Tigani said rent-regulation has “helped ensure that we have as much low-cost housing as we do, and has helped many New Yorkers remain in their homes.”

Meanwhile, a landlord group, the Community Housing Improvement Program, called the survey “problematic” and criticized the ongoing determination by the Council that the city is in a housing emergency.

“The fact that this housing ‘emergency’ has been ongoing for 60 years means that the status quo isn’t working,” Jay Martin, executive director of the group, said in a statement. — Janaki Chadha

ONLINE LEARNING WOES: City education officials vowed to improve online learning after students and educators were locked out of virtual classrooms during a snowstorm last month.

“While we understand that technological glitches are an unfortunate reality, we take this incident very seriously and are dedicated to ongoing enhancements to our systems,” Intekhab Shakil, the Department of Education’s new chief information officer, said at a City Council hearing.

Adams and schools Chancellor David Banks suffered a setback as the nation’s largest school system underwent its first substantial test of a no-snow-day approach. They insisted computing giant IBM, which provides a key part of the system, should have been prepared.

This school year, the DOE started preparing to transition to virtual learning several weeks earlier than in past years in anticipation of extreme weather, according to Scott Strickland, who recently served as acting chief information officer.

Once the city decided to pivot to online learning Feb. 12 — a day before the remote learning day — the DOE’s Division of Instructional and Information Technology (DIIT) notified relevant vendors, including IBM, Strickland said. The DOE also met with superintendents.

The number of DOE users logging in before 8 a.m. to begin their remote learning day “exceeded the capacity of the system to handle that peak load,” Strickland explained.

“New York City Public Schools and IBM recognize that the start of the remote learning day did not go smoothly, and both teams are working together to minimize the possibility of this occurring again in the future,” he said. “Our students, families and staff deserve better.” — Madina Touré

Rep. Marc Molinaro bashed President Joe Biden and Gov. Kathy Hochul over border policies.

STATE OF THE UNION…AND NEW YORK — Hudson Valley Rep. Marc Molinaro bashed President Joe Biden and Hochul’s border policies ahead of tomorrow’s State of the Union address — that Hochul will be attending as a guest.

“Tomorrow, the president could simply repeal his executive orders that have fueled, emboldened and made worse this crisis,” Molinaro said. “Governor Hochul in New York could end sanctuary city policy with the stroke of a pen. If they cared, they would.”

Molinaro, who is bringing two upstate New York county sheriffs, joined Republican leadership for their weekly party press conference today. The Republican members, including House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, called on Biden to address the border issues in his address. — Mia McCarthy

Assemblymember Bill Magnarelli gathered with hundreds of highway officials and advocates to stress the need for more highway program funding.

HIGHWAY FUNDING: A bipartisan group of lawmakers spoke in front of at least 600 of local highway officials to spread the word on “critically important” highway funding.

The lawmakers and advocates are asking for proposed $100 million in highway funding cuts be restored, as well as an additional $150 million in funding to keep pace with the cost of local construction.

Assemblymember Bill Magnarelli, chair of the Transportation Committee, said that he has done all he can to increase Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) funding, establish the state touring routes program and to aid the “Pave Our Potholes” program.

“We know it’s not enough. Unfortunately, this year’s executive budget seeks to rollback the increases we made last year for CHIPS and the state touring routes,” Magnarelli said. “I am advocating with my colleagues, and everyone here, to restore those cuts and provide another increase to chips and extreme winter recovery.”

Highway construction costs rose by 53 percent in 2023, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

“And I know over time, the more investments you make, the longer these roads last, and better technology, better construction methods,” Angelo Santabarbara, a former civil engineer turned Albany-area Assemblymember, said. “So absolutely every dollar that goes into these roads supports our economy.” — Shawn Ness

OVERTIME PAY: Four psychiatrists at state facilities and employed by the Office of Mental Health each received over $300,000 each in overtime pay, according to the Empire Center and SeeThroughNY.

Huyphuc Pham, a psychiatrist in the Bronx, received the most in overtime pay, totaling $350,933.

The state’s government payroll grew by $1.2 billion from $18.2 billion. It is the biggest single year jump in recent history, the fiscally conservative group said.

The group attributed the increase to three agencies: SUNY, where payroll grew by $257 million; the judicial branch that grew by $243 million; and the Division of Military and Naval Affairs, whose payroll jumped $203 million. — Shawn Ness

GHOST GUNS: James has finally gotten the $7.8 million judgment and permanent injunction she sought from Indie Guns LLC for illegally selling ghost gun parts in New York.

Ghost guns are untraceable and unregulated firearms that are assembled after buying individual components of guns. They do not have serial numbers engraved on them. In New York, selling an unfinished frame or receiver is a felony.

“These deadly weapons are designed to be untraceable and can easily end up in the hands of people otherwise barred from owning guns,” James said in a statement. “Indie Guns refused to follow New York and federal law and tried to flood out streets with ghost guns — but now they are paying the price for those bad actions.”

Today’s announcement comes after James sued Indie Guns and nine other similar sellers in June 2022.

James’ office said it caught the company, as well as five other others, selling unfinished frames and receivers to undercover investigators. — Shawn Ness

SUNY CAMPUS DECARBONIZATION PUSH: The winning coalition of environmental groups and labor unions that has secured progress on enabling utility thermal networks is back with another request this year.

The Upgrade NY coalition is pushing lawmakers to include $90 million to kickstart construction of two emissions-free heating and cooling networks at Purchase College and University at Buffalo.

Proponents see the funding as the next step to prove out their thesis about large-scale thermal networks, which can connect multiple buildings with pipes and pumps that utilize energy from wastewater, geothermal boreholes, lakes and other sources to provide heating and cooling services.

The Upgrade NY campaign — backed by the Building Decarbonization Coalition, the New York State Pipe Trades Association, New York State AFL-CIO and others — sees these networks as a key piece of reducing emissions from buildings, providing jobs for fossil fuel system workers whose positions are at risk as the state transitions away from reliance on natural gas and giving utilities a shot at a new business model.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do on our state buildings and facilities and campuses, and thermal energy networks are going to be one of the most cost effective ways in which we’re going to be able to achieve that,” Lisa Dix, the New York director of the Building Decarbonization Coalition said at a City & State summit. — Marie J. French

CHARGED UP: State lawmakers want new regulations to address lithium ion batteries, which have been blamed for causing fires and deaths across New York.

The Democratic-led Assembly today approved a package of measures meant to address the issue, including a bill placing a moratorium on retailers from selling lithium-ion batteries or chargers until safety standards are met. Lawmakers also want to require chargers to include a tag that provides consumer safety information.

And legislators want regulators to develop safety resources for the public.

There have been 250 fires and 18 deaths in New York City over the last year that have been blamed on the batteries.

“These tragic deaths are highly preventable,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. “I’m proud that this package provides the education and safety regulations needed to keep consumers safe while giving our firefighters much needed additional support.” Nick Reisman

—  Assemblymember Robert Smullen’s son died after being hit by a car in February. (State of Politics)

The acting head of the state Office of Children and Family Services will be stepping down. (Capitol Pressroom)

— Vulto Creamery, an upstate cheese maker, pleaded guilty to a listeria outbreak that left two dead and eight others hospitalized. (Daily News)



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