This Week’s Headlines: Scandal in Albany and shake-ups in City Hall
The week began on a lighthearted note as thousands took to the subways for the annual “No Pants Subway Ride.” New York City residents then learned their leadership is slowly being taken over by Boston Red Sox fans as new City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said he’s joining Mayor Bill de Blasio and sticking to his Massachusetts roots. But the news took a darker turn for some this week. The New York City Housing Authority is being investigated over the heating failures that left nearly 1,500 people in the cold. And in true Albany fashion, the new session kicked off with more scandal.
Klein confronts misconduct allegation
State Senate Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein found himself at the center of the latest sexual misconduct allegation to rock New York politics. In a piece published by HuffPost, former staffer Erica Vladimer accused Klein of trying to forcibly kiss her outside an Albany bar in 2015. The lawmaker denied the allegation, holding a conference call with reporters before the story was published in an attempt to get ahead of it. Klein said the entire account of the night in question was accurate, up until the point he allegedly tried to kiss Vladimer, which he said didn’t happen. He also said he has no plans to step down as the leader of the IDC. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called for an immediate independent investigation into the accusation, a call echoed by state Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
The latest Albany corruption case
She hasn’t stepped down, but Assemblywoman Pamela Harris can add her name to the list of Albany politicians charged with corruption. She was indicted last week on a number of federal charges, including fraud and witness tampering. Harris is accused of taking tens of thousands of dollars meant to go toward Superstorm Sandy repairs on her home by filing false paperwork and siphoning off money from a nonprofit to pay for vacations and lingerie. She has pleaded not guilty.
The New York City Council’s musical chairs
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced the committee chair assignments for the next four years. Among the notable appointments is Finance Committee Chairman Daniel Dromm, Land Use Committee Chairman Rafael Salamanca and Councilman Ritchie Torres will head the Oversight and Investigations Committee that will look into the operations of city agencies. Notably absent from the assignments was Councilman Jumaane Williams, one of Johnson’s opponents in the speaker race until the very end. Johnson said there was no animus in his decision-making, even if it looks that way. Williams will not chair a committee, but was named to the 19-member leadership team.