Next Week/This Week: Long Train Running

The week we finally went off the rails.

End of the line. (Photo: Timothy A. Clary for Getty Images)
End of the line. (Photo: Timothy A. Clary for Getty Images)


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1. Preet BhararaThe most feared man in Albany took a step onto the global stage on Tuesday when he indicted the former United Nations General Assembly President John Ashe and several UN functionaries, non-profit employees and Chinese businessmen. The Southern District of New York—which technically only includes Manhattan and a handful of surrounding suburban counties—is definitely chafing the U.S. attorney, who’s managed to stretch his jurisdiction to include locales as distant and exotic as the island of Macau and the city of Buffalo. He should enjoy it while he can: presidents usually like to install their personal picks in the Southern District, which means Mr. Bharara could be out of a job when the ball drops on December 31, 2016.

2. Eva Moskowitz: The charter school matriarch shuttered her schools Wednesday and closed down the Brooklyn Bridge by marching several thousand Success Academy families and advocates over it—concluding (or so it seemed) in an anti-de Blasio rally at City Hall led by one of his key rivals, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. It soon turned out that the lower Manhattan event with the Mosko-teers was really a fake-out ending, as she leaked to the press that evening that she was on the verge of making a major announcement about her political future. An ex-councilwoman from the Upper East Side, an education reform advocate tight with Wall Street mega-donors and a well-known hater of anti-charter school Mayor Bill de Blasio" class="company-link">Bill de Blasio, Ms. Moskowitz had repeatedly teased that she might challenge her fellow Democrat in the next election cycle. The local media went into a frenzy—only to be met with an even bigger fake-out the next morning, when Ms. Moskowitz announced she wouldn’t run in 2017 after all. But the excitement over a non-announcement illustrated the influence and interest Ms. Moskowitz commands.

3. Marco Rubio: A surge of upbeat media attention to the Sunshine State senator this past week suggests the Republican leadership is tilting in his direction. The youthful Cuban-American’s poll numbers have only inched up slightly, but the jaw-dropping collapse and withdrawal of conservative darling Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and the slow death-spiral of establishment sweetheart ex-Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida have finally cleared a path to victory for Mr. Rubio. Another telling sign: Mr. Bush and GOP front-runner Donald Trump have turned their guns off each other and onto their younger, better-looking rival. We’ll see if he’s bulletproof.


1. Commuters: It looks increasingly likely that the ongoing game of budgetary chicken between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio over whether the city should cough up $3.2 billion toward the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will have one real loser: the average person who has to ride a bus or train every day. Ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg got away for years with chipping in just $100 million annually toward the MTA budget and, while Mr. de Blasio agreed this past spring to up the contribution to $657 million over five years, that averages out to not a lot more. His contention that “the MTA is the state’s responsibility” because the governor controls its board rings hollow: though it’s certainly been run by the state, the entire purpose of the transit system is to facilitate the movement of people who live, work and make and spend money in New York City. But the governor’s claim that letting the city put in less than $3.2 billion would be tantamount to asking Buffalo and Rochester residents to pay for our public transit is similarly disingenuous—New York City is the economic engine of the state, and our tax dollars pay for projects in Buffalo and Rochester all the time (not to mention that they also make up a good chunk of the state’s contribution to the MTA). But no matter which man blinks first, city residents will either have to watch more of their hard-earned cash fed into the monstrously inefficient beast that is the transit authority, or deal with continuing deterioration of service—or, possibly, see fares go up yet again.

To top it off, G train service is apparently so legendarily bad it wound up in one of Mr. Bush’s campaign ads.

2. The House GOP Caucus: Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s revelation yesterday that he was dropping his bid to replace outgoing Speaker John Boehner indicates that the GOP conference has turned into the political equivalent of a mechanical bull. It looks like anybody the mainstream wing deems acceptable the Tea Party-aligned Freedom Caucus will deem insufficiently conservative, and anybody the Freedom Caucus deems acceptable the mainstream wing will deem a nutcase. And the biggest loser of them all is Mr. Boehner, who it looks like will have to stick around past his planned retirement date at the end of the month—and who right now is probably tearfully quoting Al Pacino in The Godfather: Part III to himself in the mirror.

3. The Trans Pacific Partnership: President Barack Obama finished banging out the details of his signature free trade plan—incorporating 12 Pacific Rim nations and roughly 40 percent of the global economy—with his international counterparts on Monday. Organized labor quickly pounced on it again as toxic to American jobs and sovereignty, but the more surprising blow came on Wednesday, when his ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went on air to say she opposed it. The Democratic front-runner, who had previously backed the accord, argued that in its finished form it failed to stop Asian currency manipulation or to do enough to preserve American employment. The former First Lady’s move could now give the few Democrats who supported granting Mr. Obama unilateral authority to negotiate the TPP cover to vote against it now. The president had found unlikely allies in Mr. Boehner and his congressional Republicans, but the current chaos in the House might prove to be another obstacle to the agreement’s passage. And it doesn’t help that Mr. Trump is attacking it as “a disaster” on the GOP side.


The back-and-forth, he-said-he-said, tit-for-tat bickering between Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Cuomo over the MTA capital budget. Both sides have so freely spun facts and spat out numbers that it’s tough for the average person to tell who’s right or wrong. The governor admitted as much yesterday when he told the Observer, “It’s not about the voters…I don’t know that anyone understands any of this … because it’s so complicated.” Part of the problem is that the MTA is a convoluted, opaque and almost universally-loathed mega-bureaucracy that every once in a while manages to dig a billion dollars or two out of its couch cushions to fill some budget gap. We’ll have to wait til the next round of polls to see if Mr. Cuomo’s assessment of the situation is correct—and which politician most New Yorkers side with.


Despite appearances of trench warfare between the governor and the mayor, Mr. de Blasio has reportedly extended a peace offering of $2 billion to Albany. Odds are Mr. Cuomo will rout his fellow Democrat yet again.


Mr. de Blasio will be jetting off to Israel on October 16 to address a conference on anti-Semitism, with Israeli entrepreneur Baruch Eliezer Gross paying for all expenses. But given that pilgrimages to the Holy Land are a rite of passage of sorts for New York pols, we’ll say that Bronx Assemblyman Michael Blake’s voyage to Beijing with state reps from Alaska, Missouri, Minnesota and Connecticut—which takes off tomorrow—courtesy of the China United States Education Foundation takes the cake. He gets back October 20 after also hitting Shanghai and Chongqing. What that has to do with representing an overwhelmingly black and Hispanic district in Albany is anybody’s guess.


CNN’s Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday will prove to be slightly less grating and repetitive than New York’s never-ending Democratic debate between Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Cuomo.


MTA service delays will tick off nearly everybody in the city at one point or another.

Disclosure: Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is publisher of Observer Media.

Next Week/This Week: Long Train Running