First Read – March 23, 2017

WEATHER: Sunny across the state. New York City, high 41; Albany, high 36; Buffalo, high 39.



* President Donald Trump's transportation budget would raise taxes, cut spending and end federal investment in mass transit, but its effects could be mitigated by the rampant ideological inconsistencies in the budget document overall, Nicole Gelinas writes.



* A grand jury indicted state Sen. Robert Ortt and former state Sen. George Maziarz on felony election law violations, and former Niagara County GOP Chairman Henry Wojtaszek pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor election law violation, The Buffalo News reports.

* Ortt called the charge he faces “baseless” and vowed to fight it, but the charge nonetheless jeopardizes the Republicans’ tenuous hold on the state Senate, which they maintain through an alliance with Democratic state Sen. Simcha Felder, the Daily News reports.

* Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned of a hefty income tax hike if a newly added provision in the Republicans’ proposed federal health care bill succeeds in shifting Medicaid costs from counties to the state, the Times Union reports.

* The Seneca Nation of Indians is ending all casino payments to the state government next week, which amounts to about $110 million a year, and will set up a confrontation with Cuomo, The Buffalo News reports.

* New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio visited Albany to rally support for a city tax on home sales valued at $2 million or more, but he was virtually ignored by the governor and some liberal allies said his plan was unlikely to advance, The Wall Street Journal reports.

* More news below …



Homeownership rates remain at historic lows, and New Yorkers are finding it difficult to save for their first home.  A proposal to help first-time home buyers, NY First Home (A.5616-Ramos/S.4058-Little), passed the State Senate unanimously in 2016 and has broad public support (84% of New Yorkers – Siena Research poll).  Tell state lawmakers in Albany to pass NY First Home to incentivize homeownership and provide another reason to call New York home.



* A week before the state budget deadline, four New York City borough presidents called on Cuomo to back a rent subsidy plan designed to curb homelessness being pushed by Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi and state Sen. Jeffrey Klein, the Daily News reports.

* A pharmaceutical trade group is lambasting Cuomo’s proposed state controls over drug prices in a TV ad campaign, however, Cuomo has largely welcomed the feud as he strives to position himself as a politician taking on exorbitant drug prices, the Journal reports.

* The New York City Panel for Educational Policy voted to close five struggling public schools in Brooklyn and the Bronx that are part of de Blasio’s Renewal Schools program aimed at improving troubled schools, the Daily News reports.

* Jona Rechnitz, a Brooklyn real estate investor and major de Blasio donor, has secretly pleaded guilty to making campaign donations to public officials in exchange for an official action, the Daily News reports.

* Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, a millionaire businessman from California, is looking to challenge de Blasio, but three out of five GOP county leaders from the city threw cold water on his candidacy, the New York Post reports.



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* The Buffalo News writes that farmers face more pressure than ever and federal and state leaders have the ability to address it, for instance, by including in the state budget a tax credit of up to $5,000 per year for donating produce to emergency food programs.

* The Times Union writes that the highly successful addiction treatment program run by the Rev. Peter Young should be set up for success by the state, and the state should restore its eligibility for grants while working to resolve a dispute stemming from former staffers’  embezzlement.

* The Daily News writes that it is imperative that state lawmakers ready for the cataclysmic storm of funding cuts massing in Washington, D.C., and heading this way by preserving the state millionaires tax, which generates $4 billion a year in revenue.

* The Post writes that if you were betting, sadly, the smart money would be on New York officials showing they’ve learned nothing from recent corruption convictions and will not compromise on proposals to make state spending more transparent.

* Assemblywoman Latrice Walker and state Sen. Kevin Parker write in the Daily News that in the face of federal cuts, the government must think twice about giving tax revenues away in the massive 421-a tax exemption.

* New York City Health Committee Chairman Corey Johnson and Charles King, president and CEO of Housing Works, write in the Daily News that the federal health care repeal and replace plan would gut access to lifesaving HIV prevention and care.

* Damon Hewitt, executive director of the Executives’ Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, writes in the Times that there is a false, prevailing narrative that only a few black and Latino students are good enough to be in New York City’s specialized high schools.



Rebuild New York Now, a broad coalition of elected officials, environmental groups, labor and businesses seeking to raise public awareness about New York's infrastructure challenges, has launched a statewide campaign calling for investments that will ensure the safety of New York families who worry daily about the quality of the drinking water in their homes and children's schools. It's time to invest in our water like our lives depend on it. Because they do.




* New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito speaks about her plans after she leaves office, including the possibility of something on the national level – “some sort of a role in the work that needs to get done to push back” against President Donald Trump.



Mark Weprin, former Deputy Secretary of Legislative Affairs for Governor Cuomo, NYC Council Member, and NYS Assemblyman, has joined Greenberg Traurig’s dynamic Government Law & Policy Practice. Mark joins the firm’s deep roster of attorneys with experience in government and elected positions, and is part of a one-stop team of a multidisciplinary attorneys representing real estate clients, corporations and non-profit organizations in legislative, regulatory,  real estate, land use, zoning, government, environmental and tax matters … Omar Khan, former Assistant Trade Representative for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement in the Executive Office under President Obama, is joining Mercury’s New York City office as a Senior Vice President. Khan brings extensive experience in political campaigns to the high-stakes public strategy firm, with stints as the Campaign Manager on Charlie Christ’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign, as National Associate Political Director on President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and on the state level during the 2008 Obama campaign.




HAPPY BIRTHDAY: To Judge Peter Vallone Jr. … to Lynn Krogh, political architect with The Casale Group … to Emily Gallagher, a Neighbors Allied for Good Growth board member … to political consultant Michael Caputo … and to Marty Englisher, executive vice president of the YM & YWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood.


The Professional Staff Congress/CUNY welcomes Albany’s focus on free tuition. But affordability won’t be meaningful without new investment in quality education. Students like Fatime Uruci of John Jay College are making the most of their CUNY opportunity. But CUNY needs 4,000 more full-time faculty and funding to support its 12,000-adjunct faculty. This is the year to invest more in CUNY classrooms so students like Fatime can realize their dreams.



Have a birthday, career change, birth or death to announce? Let us know and we’ll include it in First Read – just email



CITY & STATE CAREERS – WHO’S HIRING: To advertise your employment opportunities with City & State, email or call 212-268-0442 ext. 2022. Visit www.CityandState.Careers to view all jobs.

Data Analyst, Citizens’ Committee for Children

Unique opportunity to serve as part of the team managing NYC’s premiere child well-being database. Support CCC’s research, community education and advocacy by providing data collection, analysis, mapping, and producing data reports.  Candidate must have experience analyzing large data sets and proficiency in ArcGIS.   




Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule.

The state Legislature is in session.

9:30 a.m. – The state Senate Committee on Energy and Telecommunications holds a public meeting, Legislative Office Building, Room 611, Albany.

10 a.m. – Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul launches the next round of the New York Prize Community Microgram competition, Town Hall Board Room, 100 Main St., Huntington.

10 a.m. – The New York City Council Committee on Housing and Buildings holds a public meeting to discuss bills regarding distribution of voter registration forms and building permits, 250 Broadway, 16th floor committee room, Manhattan.

10 a.m. – The New York City Council Committee on Environmental Protection holds a preliminary budget hearing, Committee Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

10 a.m. – New York City first lady Chirlane McCray, Deputy Mayor Richard Buery and Small Business Commissioner Gregg Bishop announce new policy initiatives to benefit the City’s MWBEs, Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont St., Brooklyn.

10 a.m. – Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. hosts his annual Women’s History Celebration honoring City Councilwoman Annabel Palma, Black Institute founder Bertha Lewis and others, Manhattan College, Kelly Commons Building, 3900 Waldo Ave., Bronx.

11 a.m. – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio visits the HANAC Harmony JVL Innovative Senior Center to discuss his proposed so-called “mansion tax,” George T. Douris Tower, 27-40 Hoyt Ave., Queens.

11 a.m. – The state Senate is in session, Senate Chambers, state Capitol, Albany.

11 a.m. – “The Capitol Pressroom” features Jim Malatras, president of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, political analysts Bob Bellafiore and Steve Greenberg and former state Sen. Seymour P. Lachman on his new book, WCNY.

11 a.m. – StudentsFirstNY and High Achievement New York join more than 100 parents to launch the Say Yes to the Test campaign encouraging parents to opt their children into state third to eighth grade English language arts assessments, New York City Hall Park, Manhattan.

12 p.m.De Blasio visits the Carter Burden Center for the Aging to discuss his proposed mansion tax, 351 E. 74th St., Manhattan.

12:30 p.m. – Representatives from the New York Housing Conference, New York State Association for Affordable Housing, Supportive Housing Network of New York, Enterprise Community Partners, Center for New York City Neighborhoods, LeadingAge New York, and LiveOn NY gather to urge approval of $2.5 billion in new affordable housing funds, Room 130, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

1 p.m.De Blasio hosts a mansion tax press conference, across from 432 Park Ave. on 56th St., Manhattan.

1 p.m. – Hochul joins Megabus to announce the winners of the “Name the Bus” competition and takes the inaugural ride, Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, 655 W. 34th St., Manhattan.

3 p.m. – Assemblyman Richard Gottfried hosts a presentation by the Medicare Rights Center to discuss benefits and programs that help pay Medicare costs and how they may be of benefit to seniors and caregivers, Newman Conference Center Baruch College, 151 E. 25th St., Room 763, Manhattan.

4:30 p.m. – New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams and Cleveland City Councilman Zack Reed tour the Queensbridge housing development with K. Bain, founder of 696 Build Queensbridge, Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement 10-25 41st Ave., Queens.

5 p.m. – The Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement calls on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature to pass the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act, outside the Tompkins County Library, 101 E. Green St., Ithaca.

5 p.m. – New York City Councilman Ben Kallos and Sotheby’s hold an art show featuring public school artwork, Sotheby's, 1334 York Ave., Manhattan.

5:30 p.m. – Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul keynotes New York City Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson’s Women’s HerStory Celebration, Mullaly Park Recreation Center, 1020 Jerome Ave., Bronx.

5:30 p.m. – The New York City Council hosts an Irish Celebration, Council Chambers, City Hall, Manhattan.

6 p.m. – U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley and Assemblyman Francisco Moya host a town hall on immigration, St. Leo Catholic Academy, 104-19 49th Ave., Queens.

6 p.m. – New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito speaks at an Irish American heritage and culture event, Council Chambers, City Hall, Manhattan.

6 p.m. – The Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement calls on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature to pass the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act, Staten Island Ferry Terminal, 4 Whitehall St., Manhattan.

6 p.m. – The Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement calls on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature to pass the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act, Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock, 48 Shelter Rock Road, Manhasset.

6:15 p.m. – Hochul delivers gives remarks at New York City Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson’s Women’s History Month celebration, Mullaly Recreation Center, 1020 Jerome Ave., Bronx.

6:30 p.m. – New York City Council members Helen Rosenthal, Mark Levine and Bill Perkins, and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. co-host a community discussion on how to respond to hate crimes, West Side High School, 140 W. 102nd St., Manhattan.

6:30 p.m. – Assemblyman David Weprin hosts an informational town hall with city and state agencies, Hillcrest Jewish Center, 183-02 Union Turnpike, Queens.

7 p.m.De Blasio and first lady Chirlane McCray host the Women’s History Month annual mentoring and civic leadership event, Gracie Mansion, 88th Street and East End Avenue, Manhattan.

7 p.m. – Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer attends the Hate Crime Forum hosted by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and City Council members Helen Rosenthal, Mark Levine and Bill Perkins, West Side High School, 140 W. 102nd St., Manhattan.

7 p.m. – U.S. Rep. José Serrano hosts an immigration info session, Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx.

7:15 p.m. – Hochul attends the New York Botanical Garden viewing event, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, 2900 Southern Blvd., Bronx.



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KICKER: “As someone who fought and sacrificed for our country, I am sickened that a career politician and hyper-partisan like Eric Schneiderman can concoct baseless charges to serve his own political agenda. One thing is clear: the only reason I am included in this is to make their case politically appealing. As multiple news organizations have documented, Eric Schneiderman has been obsessed with using his political office to persecute his political enemies and protect his political allies." - state Sen. Robert Ortt vowing to fight election law violation charges stemming from state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s probe of election law fraud in Niagara County, via The Buffalo News.