After being sworn in for a third term on January 1st, Gov. Cuomo got busy doing Cuomo things. After vetoing funding for CUNY and a plan for paid bereavement leave, he used his inauguration speech to position himself as the progressive alternative to the Trump Administration, leading some to once again speculate about Cuomo’s presidential ambitions (although he praised Joe Biden in a later interview). He also issued pardons or commutations to 29 individuals facing deportation.
Cuomo’s most attention-grabbing move, though, was his impromptu halt of the long-planned L train shutdown. The shutdown, planned for years in order to repair damage from Hurricane Sandy, was going to be complete, and last 15 months, but the new plan will be limit the work to nights and weekends. Many questions remain, as Cuomo was vague in his press conference, and the new plan involves untested technology approved by an outside panel of engineers assembled by the Governor. It is also unclear if the transit changes planned to accommodate the shutdown, like extending the G train and enhanced bus service, will be kept in place. One thing local officials and transit advocates seem to agree on, though, is that the move severely undermines the credibility of the MTA. Although the MTA insisted the original shutdown plan was necessary and was not consulted on the Governor’s new plan, Cuomo still claims that he doesn’t control the MTA.
Tish James was sworn in as New York State Attorney General, becoming the first African-American and first woman to hold the office. She reiterated her intentions to continue using the office to investigate the Trump Administration.
After a delayed rollout, Mayor De Blasio announced a Fair Fares program that applies to only 30,000 New Yorkers.
While traffic deaths in New York City reached a record low last year, pedestrian deaths actually increased from 2017. The New York City Department of Transportation claimed to have built 20.9 miles of protected bike lanes in 2018, but only met this by changing the definition of “protected.” The real number is 23% lower.
The partial shutdown of the federal government is affecting New York immigration courts, increasing its backlog of over 105,000 cases.
Nicholas Heyward Sr., an activist who led the fight against the NYPD’s abuses of power since an officer killed his son in 1994, passed away last month.
Mayor De Blasio announced the special election to replace Tish James as Public Advocate will be held on February 26. There are approximately 30 announced candidates, but the field will likely narrow after the first filing deadline on January 15th.
Melissa Mark-Viverito became the first Public Advocate candidate to officially file her petition signatures, ensuring first ballot position in the February election.
City Council Member Robert Cornegy (D-Bedford Stuyvesant) officially filed to run for Brooklyn Borough President in 2021.
In-Depth: 2019 Elections
The new year is an off-year in New York City’s election cycle, with no regularly scheduled elections for any City, State, or Federal offices. That doesn’t necessarily mean there will nothing for New Yorkers to vote for in 2019. The following are still elections that will be held in 2019:
1) Special Elections
Whenever a Citywide elected office is left vacant, the Mayor must schedule a special election to fill that vacancy within 45 days. The first election of 2019 will be the special election for New York City’s Public Advocate on February 26, to fill the vacancy left by Tish James, who was elected State AG. This may not be the last special election of 2019 – if one of the candidates who is currently on the City Council is elected Public Advocate, then there will be a new special election to fill that newly vacant City Council seat. Special elections use unusual rules, with no primaries, no party affiliations listed on the ballot, and no cutoff necessary to win. These rules, coupled with the tightened window, present opportunities for unusual outcomes.
(Whoever wins the Public Advocate special election in February will also have to stand for re-election in the Fall, under normal election rules.)
2) Charter Revisions
Last April, the City Council passed a bill establishing a Commission to review and revise the New York City Charter. This was separate from a similar commission established by the Mayor, whose recommendations were on the ballot last November (all three passed), which were focused on election reforms. The City Council’s commission was given a broader scope. While its recommendations are not yet public, they will be put to the voters in November of 2019.
3) Judicial Elections
There will also be boroughwide races in 2019, which include judicial elections to the five county court systems in New York City (New York, Bronx, Queens, Kings, and Richmond). Judicial elections are held for Civil Courts, Surrogate Courts (wills and trusts), and the Supreme Court (New York’s name for criminal trial courts), and in each case are tightly controlled by party officials. The number of seats up for election varies by borough, and is dependant on different term limits and retirement schedules. The Board of Elections will announce which Court seats require elections in June. Parties select candidates for Civil and Surrogate Court seats via primary, while the Supreme Court nominees are chosen via an opaque process of judicial nominating conventions.
4) District Attorney Races
The District Attorneys of Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx are all up for re-election in 2019. Most the attention has gone to Queens, where longtime DA Richard A. Brown is being challenged by at least seven candidates, some of whom are positioning themselves as part of a new wave of “progressive prosecutors.” Darcel Clark in the Bronx and Michael McMahon in Staten Island have not yet drawn similarly high-profile challengers.