- Tenants of 85 Bowery in Chinatown were evacuated without warning on Thursday evening due to a city-issued vacate order over safety concerns. The evacuation suspiciously comes one month after the state determined that the building should be rent stabilized. Tenants have reportedly been requesting that the landlord make the repairs in question for years. Nearly 100 people were pushed into the cold and the timeline for when the landlord will make the needed repairs remains unclear.
- A panel organized by Governor Cuomo announced a congestion pricing plan that would charge drivers entering Manhattan south of 60th Street and send that money to the transit system. Both Cuomo and De Blasio expressed qualified support for the proposal, but its path forward in the State Legislature is still uncertain.
- Gov. Cuomo has proposed his budget for 2019. The $168 billion plan includes a response to the recent GOP tax law, as well as funding for half of the MTA’s “action plan,” with the expectation that the City cover the other half.
- The MTA was pressured to expand the definition of “power related delays” so that Gov. Cuomo could blame ConEd for the subway’s problems.
- The Village Voice reports that many Bushwick tenants feel they are being pushed out of their buildings via landlord neglect. Complaints include burst pipes and unreliable heat, and one couple stated that their landlord threatened to call immigration when they requested the heating be repaired.
- NYCHA Chair Shola Olatoye met with State Assembly Democrats, some of whom have called for her resignation over the lead paint scandal, as well as other problems in public housing.
- De Blasio attacked ICE but defended the NYPD for its handling of the rally in support of Ravi Ragbir, the executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC who was deported last week, despite 18 arrests and allegations of abuse of protesters.
- Newly elected Brooklyn City Councilmembers Alicka Ampry-Samuel and Justin Brannan have joined the Progressive Caucus, which now has 21 of the City’s 51 CMs.
- Republican State Senator Marty Golden (District 22, Southern Brooklyn) reported over $500,000 in cash on hand ahead of this fall’s election, while Ross Barkan and Andy Gounardes, his two Democratic challengers, reported about $50,000 and $100,000 respectively.
- Mathylde Frontus, who has founded multiple nonprofits in Coney Island, may run for Pamela Harris’ Assembly seat if Harris is forced to resign.
- Ahead of what may be an easy re-election campaign, Governor Cuomo reported over $30 million dollars in the bank that was almost entirely raised by large donations from wealthy donors. His one declared Democratic primary challenger, former State Senator Terry Gipson, raised around $6000. Only one of his Republican challengers has fundraised so far and has come up with just $15,000.
In-Depth: Lieutenant Governor
Last week, City Council Member Jumaane Williams (District 45, Flatbush) announced the formation of an exploratory committee to run for Lieutenant Governor of New York State. The announcement was somewhat unusual since Williams has no running mate at the top of his ticket, even though the Council Member said in his announcement that Governor Cuomo has “earned a primary” and previously suggested that he would aim to challenge Cuomo directly.
While the Lieutenant Governor is elected as part of a ticket with a Governor in the general election, candidates pursue the position separately in primaries. Nevertheless, candidates for Lt. Governor are typically a selected by gubernatorial candidates during the primaries, with pairs running as de facto tickets despite not appearing together on the ballot.
In the 2014 Democratic primary, for example, Gov. Cuomo selected his current Lieutenant, Kathy Hochul, at the state Democratic convention, and his challenger, Zephyr Teachout, ran with Tim Wu. Each half of the “ticket” received roughly equal shares of the vote. With no credible challengers currently known to be challenging Gov. Cuomo this fall, Williams’ candidacy for the Lieutenant position raises the question of what one can achieve in the position.
LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR’S DUTIES
Although the position of Lieutenant Governor is written into the New York State Constitution, and has existed since the State’s inception, it has few formal powers. Much like the Vice President of the United States, the Lieutenant Governor is first in line to succeed the Governor, and serves as President of the State Senate, casting votes in the event of a tie. Beyond that, the role is loosely defined. In the 2018 State budget, the Office of the Lieutenant Governor was allotted a mere $630,000 and seven FTEs (full-time equivalent staff members). By contrast, the Executive Chamber, which includes the Governor’s immediate staff, has a budget of over $17.8 million, with 136 FTEs.
As a result, the Lieutenant Governor effectively serves at the discretion of the Governor. When they get along, the positions can work together in tandem. For example, Malcolm Wilson served as Nelson Rockefeller’s Lieutenant for 15 years, and was credited with helping the billionaire political novice govern effectively. When they don’t, though, the Lieutenant can be effectively sidelined: Albert DelBello, who wound up on the ticket with Mario Cuomo in 1982 after defeating the elder Cuomo’s running mate in the primary, resigned midway through his term, complaining that Cuomo didn’t give him enough to do.
More typically, Lieutenant Governors serve on task forces, advisory boards, and councils, and any recommendations made by these bodies can be pursued or ignored at the Governor’s discretion. Generally, they are used as a way to promote the Governor’s legislative initiatives and generate good press for the Governor. This is essentially the role that the current Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul, has played since her election in 2014. She heads a task force on opioid addiction, and has been a visible promoter of the Governor’s “Enough Is Enough” legislation to end sexual assault on college campuses.
Williams’ entry to the campaign has sparked rumors about a shakeup in the position of Lieutenant Governor. One such rumor is that Hochul will vacate the position to challenge US Congressman Chris Collins, who narrowly defeated her in 2012. Another is that Cuomo will select Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren to replace her as his running mate this year. While both women have so far denied the rumors, the speculation is understandable: Hochul could be a strong candidate in a tough race against a Republican Congressman tied closely to Trump.
Williams has been a consistent progressive critic of Cuomo and would likely be an antagonist to the Governor if elected; the selection of Warren as a running mate would be seen as a way for Cuomo to make sure his Lieutenant remains an ally and hamstring the ascendance of a progressive like Williams to statewide power. In both his Council Speaker campaign and his early statements getting into the Lt. Governor race, Williams has criticized the lack of African-American leaders in power, and Warren, who is also black, could undermine what is likely to be Williams’ main points of attack.
But no matter who Cuomo runs with, if he doesn’t face a serious challenge at the top of the ticket, it’s unclear how Williams’ campaign will resonate. There are few, if any, precedents for a Lieutenant Governor challenger without a gubernatorial co-candidate in a primary. Even if Williams were to win, it’s unclear what he could accomplish in the role without the backing of the Governor.
In his announcement, Williams claimed to have a new vision of the role, to work “in advocacy for many of the people who don’t have a voice now, and pushing issues that…haven’t been pushed.” Similarly, Tim Wu’s progressive 2014 candidacy spoke to using the office as a “bully pulpit.” While the office has few formal powers, a limited ability to garner press attention, and a budget smaller than he would have as a City Council Member, Williams’ election would still be the ascent of a progressive City politician to a Statewide office, and potentially position him for a future run for a more powerful role.