Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday slammed his fellow Democrats for “playing politics” on the proposal to bring Amazon offices to Long Island City—but would not commit to rejecting an appointee who could wreck the deal.
Appearing on WNYC Tuesday, the governor lashed out at Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins’ decision to nominate Queens state Sen. Michael Gianaris—a leading opponent of the Amazon plan—to the Public Authorities Control Board, a nomination Cuomo has the power to block. The PACB must unanimously sign off on the plan to bypass local zoning laws to allow Amazon to open a campus on a 15-acre site in Gianaris’ district.
Nixing the Senate’s nominee would be the nuclear option and an extreme rarity in state politics—and the governor demurred when asked directly by radio show host Brian Lehrer if he would resort to that.
“Well, we’re not there yet,” Cuomo said. “The exact design of the transaction will [determine] the approvals we need.”
Gianaris, the deputy majority leader of the upper chamber’s new Democratic majority, has a fractious past with the governor and is rallying opposition to the $1.7 billion in state tax breaks and subsidies Amazon is poised to receive on top of $1.3 billion in nondiscretionary city assistance if hiring targets are met.
In a subsequent radio interview Tuesday with Alan Chartock, the governor said the PACB’s role is purely fiduciary—to ensure funds are available for the state to make good on a deal. As such, Cuomo said, Gianaris could not vote against the project if he were abiding by that mandate.
“If a PACB member was going to play politics and put their own political motivations ahead of their official duty, then yes, [a member could stop a deal],” Cuomo said. “But I’m sure the Senate would never appoint a person who would do that.”
The Amazon deal is by far the largest economic-development agreement of Cuomo’s eight years in office, and one of the largest in the U.S. in recent memory. The governor reiterated that the incentives he offered were necessary to win the nationwide competition for Amazon’s project, and cast the Senate’s opposition in harsh terms.
“I understand politics and I also understand government, and there’s a difference between the two. And I think it’s unfortunate the Senate is playing politics here,” Cuomo complained, even as he acknowledged the popular appeal of criticizing a subsidy package to a company led by the world’s richest man.
“Everybody loves to hate Jeff Bezos, so I understand that,” the governor said. “I think if Amazon pulled out, I think you would see all these political voices who are arguing symbolism all of a sudden understand what they did, and it would be a dramatic blow not only to the economy but to the reputation” of the state.
Gianaris has said the Amazon deal is so bad that it cannot even be a basis for negotiations.
Polls show more New Yorkers favor the deal than oppose it, including in Queens, but the governor cast some of the blame for the currency that foes have enjoyed on the company. “Amazon has not done a great job communicating” with the public, Cuomo said, adding that the plan would yield at least 25,000 jobs and as much as $27 billion in tax revenue.
He also appeared to jab at democratic-socialist opposition to the deal, led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose Bronx-Queens district overlaps heavily with Gianaris’ Senate district.
“‘We need housing, we need transportation.’ Yes! You need revenue to do that,” the governor said. “None of these great political theories works without jobs.”
A spokesman for the Senate Democratic Conference punched back at the governor, insisting that Gianaris and Stewart-Cousins have only the state’s fiscal interests at heart. However, the press rep also suggested that the state Legislature, in full Democratic control for the first time in a decade, deserves credit for a string of recent liberal accomplishments—no thanks to the cautious and calculating Cuomo.
“The Senate Democratic Conference and our partners in the Assembly finally returned New York as the progressive beacon to the rest of the country,” said Communications Director Mike Murphy. “We simply want to make sure that taxpayer money is properly spent. That’s not playing politics, that’s doing our jobs.”
New York officials face backlash over ‘congestion’ tax push
New York City is expensive. From parking to hotels to Broadway tickets, the city has a way of leaving the wallet lighter for any visitor. But it’s poised to get even pricier if a controversial new “congestion” fee comes to fruition.
With Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s backing, the proposed charge would be imposed at all Manhattan points of entry below 60th Street. While the price has not been set in stone, a report commissioned by Cuomo’s office recommends cars entering Manhattan during peak hours be charged $11.52, and trucks be charged $25.34 – on top of any bridge tolls.
The hope is that the fees eventually would help ease traffic, while sending needed funds toward public transportation, notably the city’s aging subway system.
But, on the heels of New York’s clash with Amazon that ended with the tech giant scrapping plans for a new headquarters there, the proposal is creating new economic concerns and political pushback.
Democratic state Sen. Joseph Addabbo, who represents parts of Queens and Brooklyn, told Fox News that “businesses are very concerned” about the higher costs of entering Manhattan.
“Being a business person in New York City is not easy,” he said. “… Congestion pricing is hitting them over the head.”
Cuomo, in his State of the State address last month, said the fee would raise about $15 billion by 2024. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio supports the legislation but is calling for hardship exemptions for those traveling to Manhattan for medical care – as well as upstate farmers who sell produce in Manhattan.
Phase one, meanwhile, already has been enacted as New Yorkers riding below 96th Street started seeing increased prices in their taxis, Ubers and other rides for hire since Feb. 1: $2.50 for yellow cabs; $2.75 for Uber, Lyft and Juno; and 75 cents for ridesharing cars. Cuomo reportedly says the Metropolitan Transportation Authority can gain $1 million a day from the new surcharges.
But in a statement to Fox News, the Independent Drivers Guild representing over 70,000 app-based drivers blasted what it called a “sham” tax that “unjustly singles out low income for-hire drivers and their already highly-taxed riders.” The organization said the system “disproportionately hurts women, who more often opt for Uber or Lyft trips over public transit for safety reasons, especially at night.”
What comes next is not yet clear. Phase one only went into effect this month after a long legal battle. Phase two, which would extend to all drivers, would have to clear the state legislature – but could be a tough sell since the tax would affect any constituents who travel to the city.
New York City Councilman Barry Grodenchik, a Democrat representing part of Queens, worried about the impact to his constituents, many of whom rely on cars to get into Manhattan.
Leading opponent Richard Brodsky, a former Democratic assemblyman, told The New York Times last year, “This has always been a policy nostrum of the elites, sort of a big lab test in which the lab rats — the regular people — wanted no part of it.”
Supporters counter that the plan can work, and is sorely needed.
A spokesman for New York state Democratic Sen. Liz Kruger, who represents Manhattan’s east side and supports the plan, told Fox News the senator remains optimistic and “the devil is in the details.” Kruger thinks there is “a model that can be found that is equitable to all New Yorkers,” the spokesman said.
Democratic state Sen. Kevin Thomas, of Long Island, stressed the need to fund infrastructure repairs. “Much of my district commutes by train to the city, and improvements are desperately needed to the aging rail line,” he said, urging that most of the money go toward fixing the Long Island Railroad.
In Cuomo’s State of the State address, he said, “The status quo has got to go. Riders are fed up, the situation only gets worse. It’s like the old commercial: you can pay me now or you can pay me later. The system is just continuing to deteriorate and if we don’t invest now we’re going to pay more later and suffer in the meantime. … Let’s do it this year.”
Congestion pricing is not new. London has had an £11.50 surcharge since 2003, during working business hours. Los Angeles, too, is looking at a rush-hour toll system, with support from Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Open Forum: Socialist insanity: Keep your cars and your cows
As presidential wannabes launch their campaigns for 2020, they seem to stand behind New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s harebrained neo-socialist Green New Deal. But when questioned about their support for the resolution, they capitulate by referring to the deal as only “aspirational.” It makes sense to dodge the political insanity, but they should denounce the Green New Deal openly.
The very notion of Socialism in America causes people like me to cringe, but apparently a small percentage of Americans see it differently. Socialism demands equality among individuals through government ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.
But to demand equality for all is a problem for some who believe that no two people are the same. Under socialism, those who administer, “or the ruling class,” divide the earnings from the sale of goods equally among those who produced them. So the ruling class creates a sense of equality that doesn’t exist.
Trying to force equality through administrative regulation and turning a blind eye to individual effort and talent ignores personal freedom and the effort to succeed. All individuals deserve the freedom to develop and improve their value in the workplace and increase their earnings. Without the freedom and incentive to produce more through innovation and increased personal effort, economic failure is likely.
Venezuela is but one example of socialism’s impact on a strong economy. From the 1950s to the early 1980s, the Venezuelan economy, buoyed by high oil prices, was one of the strongest in South America. In 1970 It was the richest country in Latin America and one of the 20 richest countries in the world. The violence, disease, and personal hardships suffered by Venezuelan citizens today, has developed over the past 20 years of rule under the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), ushered in by Hugo Chavez in 2007.
The better place for a blind eye is Ocasio-Cortez’s outlandish Green New Deal resolution. That would make more sense and better serve America since her plan would ban cars, planes, and cows, eliminate fossil fuels and nuclear energy, and offer free education to all in a mere 12 years? Get serious! American voters deserve the truth regarding economic policy platforms in America, not impossible and undoable socialist insanity that leads to economic failure.
The natural laws of physics would make most of the plan impossible. Renewable energy sources will not sustain America’s energy demands now and they never will. The money needed to support this delusional vision is unreasonable now and always will be.
I suggest that Americans keep their cars and their cows, continue to use fossil fuels to sustain energy requirements, and allow our free market system to preserve liberty and prosperity for all Americans. And the federal government should continue to protect the security and safety of our citizens and follow the mandates of our Constitution. Presidential hopefuls should be firm and dismiss the Socialist insanity!
VULGAR MESSAGE TO DONALD TRUMP IN POLITICAL CARTOON CAUSES PAPER TO DROP CARTOONIST: ‘LOOSE LIPS SINK STRIP’
A newspaper says it will stop publishing a popular cartoon after a vulgar message addressed to President Donald Trump appeared in its latest issue.
“Non Sequitur” is a syndicated cartoon by Wiley Miller and is a regular feature of the Pennsylvania publication The Butler Eagle.
Readers are encouraged to color in the three-panel, black-and-white cartoon, which this week featured a “Bearaissance” character named “Leonardo Bear Vinci.”
But on Sunday, readers spotted that a small scribbled message appears in one of the panels, which says “We fondly say go f*** yourself…Trump.”
Ron Vodenichar, Eagle publisher and general manager was unhappy with the message, which was brought to his attention after a reader spotted it.
In a Butler Eagle article headlined “Loose lips sink strip: cartoonist fired for cure,” Vodenichar was quoted as saying that the message was “apparently placed there by someone in the creative department of the creator of the comic strip or the syndication which controls it.
“Neither The Butler Eagle nor any other newspaper that includes this strip had an opportunity to remove it even if they had discovered it before distribution.
“We apologize that such a disgusting trick was perpetuated on the reading public. The Butler Eagle will discontinue that comic immediately,” Vodenichar said.
The strip is distributed by Andrews McMeel Syndication whose website states that it appears in more than 700 newspapers. It is unclear if other publications will follow suit.
In a tweet, Miller appeared to refer to the message, by saying: “”some of my sharp-eyed readers have spotted a little Easter egg. … Can you find it?”
Miller does not hide his contempt for Trump on Twitter. After the State of the Union address, he tweeted on February 6: “Trump’s SOTU address was essentially that guy yelling at his bloodied wife, ‘WHY DO YOU MAKE ME KEEP HITTING YOU?'”
On immigration, he referred to him as “the Gaslighter-in-Chief” who presents “zero evidence to support this claim” about the numbers of people coming into the country from Mexico.
In response to reports that Trump had blamed the Democrats for faltering talks on the border wall, Miller tweeted: “The gaslighting projectionist explains it all. Such a stable genius.”
The negotiators for the Republicans and the Democrats had hoped that a deal would be struck by Monday so Congress could pass the legislation in time for the February 15 cut-off date.
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