Why is Vito Lopez still in the State Assembly?
It has been two weeks since word leaked out that we the taxpayers paid off, er, compensated two women who claimed that Mr. Lopez, a veteran legislator and chairman of Brooklyn’s Democratic county committee, harassed them in the workplace. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver approved a secret $103,000 payment each—and never saw fit to refer the case to the Assembly’s Ethics Committee.
But that very committee did look into other allegations against Mr. Lopez and found an appalling record of intimidation, inappropriate conduct and harassment. Subsequent news accounts reported that Mr. Lopez, who is 71 years old, frequently commented on the appearance of female staff members, and sometimes made inappropriate advances. Women interviewed by The New York Times said that they felt threatened by Mr. Lopez’s boorish behavior. The assemblyman brusquely told one staff member to remain quiet after she complained about unwanted and aggressive advances from an aide to one of Mr. Lopez’s allies.
In a better world, Mr. Lopez would be thoroughly ashamed and would already be in self-imposed exile. His Assembly seat would be vacant. He would not still be the leader of Brooklyn’s Democrats.
But, of course, we are not talking about a perfect world, or even a decent one.
After years of opposition, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has decided to roll the dice on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s dream of opening a casino in New York City. There is just one house rule, according to the Daily New‘s Albany bureau chief Ken Lovett: not in my backyard. (He’s just as parochial as his constituents!)
The locations Silver is open to a casino include Coney Island—where Borough President Marty Markowitz desperately wants one—the new Mets megamall at Willets Point and the so-far-failed plans for one at Aqueduct. But proposals like Times Square and at a rejiggered Javits Center are definitely out.
The Neverending Story
The thunderstorm had just cleared over Manhattan on Monday morning as the topping out of 4 World Trade Center was about to get underway. Turning down Maiden Lane from Broadway, the 977-foot tower, looming over the space of the small street, glistened even more than usual, freshly polished by the rain.Even against a backdrop of dark clouds, the building, designed by Japanese Pritzker Prize winner Fumihiko Maki, blends in with the sky in a soothing way that almost makes the 72-story structure disappear. It is much lighter—and, in the estimation of The Observer, quite a bit nicer—than its big brother, also rising, across the 16-acre site.
“Welcome to the first tower that will open for business here at the World Trade Center site,” Janno Lieber, right-hand man to Larry Silverstein at ground zero, boomed into a microphone from the podium. It was the only note of competition throughout the festivities, even though everyone knew the smaller tower, while started three years later, had beaten its sibling to the top by at least a few days.
Will there be fair and competitive elections next year in New York?
Governor Cuomo promised, in essence, that there would be. During his successful campaign in 2010, Mr. Cuomo said he would fight for the creation of an independent commission that would be given power to redraw the state’s legislative and congressional districts, a process that unfolds every 10 years. Traditionally, both houses of the Legislature handle this task, and critics have charged that the legislators draw maps that insulate incumbents from serious challenges. Congressional incumbents and state legislators rarely are turned out of office in New York, the result, critics say, of unfair district maps.
Not surprisingly, legislative leaders haven’t jumped at the opportunity to turn over their map-making power to an independent commission. The result is a stalemate between Mr. Cuomo, who is attempting to make good on his promise, and both parties in the Legislature. Republicans and Democrats may not agree on everything, but leaders of both parties are of one mind when it comes to protecting incumbents.
Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver held a celebratory news conference last week during which they announced an agreement on implementing a 2 percent cap on property tax increases. Welcome though that announcement was, it’s clear that the work of achieving real property tax reform is far from over. Read More
Azi Paybarah has the latest at our sister site, PolitickerNY, on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s property tax cap proposal. Scroll down and you’ll see praise from the big-time business group, Partnership for New York City.
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While Andrew Cuomo left open the possibility this afternoon that someone besides the Attorney General might defend last year’s law to count prisoners in their home districts against a Republican legal challenge, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and a few civil rights groups are helping make the case for Eric Schneiderman.
“We believe that Read More
Threats: Silver, Skelos and others were threatened in an email. [Ken Lovett and Glen Blain]
Threats: Also sent to journalists. State police investigating. [Nick Confessore]
City Budget: NYC’s workforce will shrink, says Bloomberg. [AP]
City Budget: “We cannot afford the size police force, fire department, of any Read More