New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio took the Metropolitan Transportation Authority funding fight to Albany this week, insisting at a legislative hearing that the city won’t chip in any more money to pay for the subways. Back home, he found himself in the opposition role again when Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said he would not to prosecute most cases of fare evasion. Back in Albany, the Assembly passed the DREAM Act again, even if the federal government didn’t take action on immigration. And the Winter Olympics kicked off in Pyeongchang, South Korea, hopefully offering a brief reprieve from political bickering as the country unites to root on its athletes. That and more in this week’s headlines.
A short-lived shutdown
The government briefly shut down on Friday, but you could be forgiven for not knowing – unless you are a member of Congress, you were probably asleep. Congress passed a two-year spending bill before dawn Friday morning, with President Donald Trump sending a celebratory tweet after signing it at around 8:30 a.m., ending the brief shutdown. There was dissension in Democratic ranks – and in New York’s delegation – on the budget deal, as it lacked an agreement on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Members of Democratic leadership, including Rep. Joe Crowley, voted “no,” as did U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. However, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was one of the bill’s champions and guided it through the Senate.
Howe he did it
As the star witness in a corruption trial, former lobbyist Todd Howe admitted to name-calling, ziti references and multiple occasions of lying in the trial of Joe Percoco, a former aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Although his testimony was used to portray Percoco in a negative light, that may have backfired when the defense starting questioning him – and Howe was arrested after admitting to trying to scam his way out of a hotel bill after his plea deal.
New York City Housing Authority Chairwoman Shola Olatoye got grilled by the City Council at a heated hearing about NYCHA’s extensive heating failures that affected 80 percent of residents this winter. The last time she appeared before the council, she lied about lead paint testing at NYCHA apartments. This time, she refused to apologize, despite Speaker Corey Johnson asking her to do so. Olatoye tried to blame a lack of funding, but NYCHA residents at the hearing didn’t seem to buy it, often interrupting her testimony with boos.
Where there’s a Willets …
The Willets Point redevelopment project appeared dead in 2015, but like Sleeping Beauty awakened by a kiss from Prince Charming, a deal de Blasio struck this week has revived it. That deal, an updated version of the old plan with the same developers, includes low-income housing, a school, an open space and retail – although not the mall that was once envisioned. Attempts to redevelop Willets Point go back to 2002 under the Bloomberg administration, and the plans with what to do with the land have changed time and again to get to where the city is now.
Graduation rates in New York state and New York City saw a slight uptick last year, but generally didn’t have a major improvement. Technically, the city’s numbers are at a record high, but that only constitutes an increase of 1.2 percentage points compared to the previous year. State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia called the numbers “generally positive,” but still acknowledged a number of inequities still present in the system.
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