Winners & Losers 12/29/17
It’s been a slow news week, but the winds of fortune never stop blowing. To our winners, it may feel like a warming, tropical breeze, filling their sails into 2018. But our losers will feel a chilly gale, shivering all week like a LaGuardia Houses resident with no heat (hear that, Commissioner Olatoye?). But one thing bonds both groups this week – they’re better off than those poor suckers in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
Lorena Borjas, Freddy Perez & Alexander Shilov – This week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo granted clemency to 61 New Yorkers with criminal records. Among them are Borjas, Perez and Shilov, three immigrants who potentially faced deportation over their convictions, but had their nonviolent crimes pardoned and can now stay in the good ol’ U.S. of A. As intended, Cuomo’s pardons also draw a stark contrast to President Donald Trump at a time when the president is trying to crack down on immigration and increase deportations.
Cynthia Brann – Rikers Island jail guards “relish confrontation” and aren’t held accountable – just ask the federal monitors – but at least there are fewer inmates to target now. Many officials deserve credit for getting New York City’s daily inmate population under 9,000 for the first time since 1982, including the district attorneys, but it’s Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann who’s kept the pop down low and has fewer mouths to feed and defendants to move.
Adrienne Esposito – “Delay is an enemy, and time is of the essence,” said Andrew Cuomo, doing his best sci-fi movie president impression. “Every day we lose, that plume moves.” Thank Long Island environmental advocate Adrienne Esposito for the dramatic quotes – she helped persuade the state to devote $150 million to cleaning up contaminated groundwater in Bethpage, and now can devote more time to screenwriting “The Evil Plume.”
James O’Neill – The NYPD commissioner announced that he would stay on for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s second term, explaining that “I love this job.” It’s easy to love the job when the city’s crime levels have dropped to lows not seen since the 1950s, with crime declining for 27 straight years. Apart from an uptick in reported rapes at the end of the year, O’Neill’s strategy of neighborhood policing seems to be paying off, with fewer crimes and greater community connections. Best of all, O’Neill, one of our winners of the year, gets to end 2017 yet again on the winner’s list.
Eric Schneiderman – The press-hungry state attorney general saw his name in print again due to the triple-digit tally of lawsuits he has filed against President Donald Trump. Schneiderman has already extracted at least one settlement from Trump, and going toe-to-toe with the president isn’t a bad look as the country enters an election year with the potential for a Democratic wave. At a time when everyone is focused on New York’s other potential presidential candidates from New York – Cuomo, de Blasio, Gillibrand – Schneiderman reminded everyone that he’s a relevant resister too.
Bill de Blasio – Just back from burnishing his liberal credentials in Iowa (again), a scathing piece reports that progressives hate him anyway. Worse, emails exposed sketchy contacts with real estate executive Steve Nislick, who was lobbying the mayor to ban carriage horses while pitching the mayor on a development plan … near the city’s biggest horse carriage stable. Meanwhile, the mayor’s delayed Clinton endorsement came back again to haunt him. It’s just not Bill’s week. But things are looking up for next week, when progressive rock star Bernie Sanders is slated to swear him in.
Diane Call – It’s one thing for a top-notch higher education system like the City University of New York to be plagued by poor management, misspent funds and questionable hiring practices. But to have academics engaging in behavior that looks a lot like cheating truly undercuts CUNY’s core mission. Of course, we’ll wait to see how the expanding state investigation plays out, but the allegations of pay-to-play publishing by professors at Call’s Queensborough Community College certainly weren’t on her Christmas list.
Tina Fey – Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo showed the former "SNL" star who’s the real bossypants in New York. Fey and other film industry leaders had pushed for legislation to incentivize the hiring of more women and minorities to direct TV shows in the state. While a bill that would have allocated up to $5 million passed both houses, Cuomo argued that it wasn’t the right way to go about addressing the issue, and shot down the measure as “fatally defective.”
Shola Olatoye – How is it that she still has a job? For those just joining us: In 2016, Olatoye lied, falsely certifying the agency was in compliance with lead inspections. Now, we learn that NYCHA has been letting children live in homes the agency knew were toxic from lead paint as young residents are found to have lead-linked disabilities. Oh, and the agency admitted to another violation of federal law for not inspecting for lead paint in common areas. Doubtless, Olatoye remains NYCHA’s lead-er.
Howard Zemsky – Two years and $90 million later, a new factory is nearly complete near Syracuse that was slated to bring over 400 jobs to the area. Empire State Development, of which Zemsky is president and CEO, managed the project. But the intended resident, LED lightbulb manufacturer Soraa, backed out at the last minute. It was supposed to be a big win for the area, but now the state needs to sink another $15 million to bring in a different company that will bring fewer jobs. This, while Soraa leaves without penalty and without footing any of the bill.