Winners & Losers 2/17/17
A politician’s relationship with voters can resemble a romance. There’s the initial flirtation, then the questioning about how serious it’s getting, and finally, with some luck, the maturation into a long-term commitment. In the same way, our Winners & Losers list features the political figures who are this week’s biggest crushes – and those who have loved and lost.
Carmen Fariña – The New York City schools chancellor surely relished her boss crooning about how the city’s graduation rate increased 2.4 percent and more graduates than ever met CUNY’s college readiness standards. But changes relaxing the state graduation requirements make it difficult to suss out how much of the progress can be attributed to educators instead of pupils scraping past a lower bar.
Donna Fernandes – If the political climate has you feeling gloomy, what better way is there to escape from it all than checking out cute animals? Plenty of Buffalonians were doing just that at the city’s zoo, which just reported attendance levels hitting a nearly 30-year high. A couple of lion cubs may have something to do with it, but whatever the actual reason, the crowds flocking to the Buffalo Zoo have given Fernandes, its outgoing president and CEO, something to crow about.
Mark Levine – The New York Times christened him one of the leading candidates for the New York City Council speakership in 2018 – and not just because he's geographically (Manhattan) and linguistically (él habla español) gifted. He gets results too, like brokering a deal with the de Blasio administration to fund lawyers for low-income New Yorkers fighting eviction in housing court. Right to Counsel: check. Right for the Council: we'll see.
Bill Perkins – The New York political life cycle continues for the Harlem state senator. The former New York City Council member used his name recognition and political clout in the neighborhood to win a special election to return to his old seat on the council, replacing Inez Dickens, who herself had moved on to a new seat in the Assembly. The best part of Perkins’ win though is his new salary – $148,500, which is nearly $70,000 more than his previous income level in Albany.
Hal Teitelbaum – It’s a perennial question with economic development subsidies: Would the recipient of the money have opened the new facilities or factories or added jobs, even without the extra cash? Take Teitelbaum’s Crystal Run Healthcare: It was awarded $25 million from the state last year, despite evidence the Hudson Valley firm was already planning to build two new facilities anyway. The disclosure raises questions as to whether the Cuomo administration’s grants made sense – at least for taxpayers.
George Bonitsis, John Holl, John Phelan & Donata Rea – For several years after Superstorm Sandy hit New York, local homeowners in the hardest-hit areas complained about delays and bureaucratic snafus with New York City’s Build It Back program. Now it turns out that at least a few homeowners were making just as much of a mess of it, as Holl, Phelan, Bonitsis and Rea were all charged with fraud this week for filing for funds they weren’t eligible for.
Margaret Chin & Brad Lander – Albany Landered one squarely on the Chin of the New York City Council, knocking out the plastic bag fee to remind New Yorkers who the REAL heavyweight is: the state Legislature. The City Council sponsors trained for the fight for years, and even postponed the date it would go into effect, hoping to cut a deal in Albany. But by the end, the city's law was crumpled on the mat.
Matt Driscoll – Cuomo and the state Department of Transportation love New York – but the federal government isn’t fully on board. During a budget hearing, the DOT commissioner testified that the state paid $8.1 million to print and install “I Love NY” highways signs – despite the original estimate having been $1.76 million. And that’s before we get to the fact that the signs apparently violate federal law. It remains to be seen if they’ll be knocked down, but apparently there are some big fans of the signs here in Albany, for whatever that’s worth.
Fernando Ferrer & Ronnie Hakim – State and city officials celebrated the opening of the Second Avenue subway with all the bells and whistles last month, but things aren’t all great for the MTA’s acting chairman and interim executive director. This week it was reported that subway delays more than doubled in the last five years, which isn’t likely to get any better with the agency facing an apparent $65 million cut in Cuomo’s budget. On top of that, board members have come under fire for failing to report any income or financial information – which was required last spring. Looks like Tom Prendergast retired at the right time.
Ved Parkash – You’d think the worst landlord in the New York City couldn’t get any worse, but lo and behold, someone literally DIED in one of his apartments. According to city investigators, Parkash created eight illegal basement apartments in one of his Bronx buildings, and at the same time allowed for the building to become a breeding ground for rats, which caused three people within a one-block radius to fall seriously ill with the rare rat-borne disease leptospirosis. One of the victims is now dead, and Parkash is looking more and more like one of the all-time worst New Yorkers in the city’s history.