Bronx Political Round-up: Cuomo Sets 4/24 Special Election

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo led passage of the DREAM Act for undocumented immigrant students. (Twitter)

Cuomo Calls Special Elex for AD 80 and SD 32

Early Monday afternoon, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued the proclamation declaring April 24 as the date of the special election to fill 11 legislative vacancies in the State Senate (2) and the State Assembly (9). There are four vacant seats in New York City: one Assembly seat each in the Bronx (AD80), Manhattan (AD74) and Queens (AD39) as well as a senate seat (SD32) in the Bronx. Meanwhile, Citizens Union criticized Cuomo for chosing to delay holding the special elections until after the state budget is enacted (April 1) and leaving those districts without representation during a critical time in the legislative session. CU also urged the Legislature and Cuomo to prioritize reforms to open up the process of selecting the candidates to fill vacancies in the State Legislature.

Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda, considered the frontrunner for the party nomination, has been working county committee members in the 32nd SD. Pamela Stewart Martinez, and Michael Beltzer are rumored to be mulling separate challenges. The county committee convention to nominate the Democratic candidate to run in the special election is scheduled for February 15.

In the 80th AD, Councilman Mark Gjonaj says he supports his former chief of staff (and current aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo) Nathalia Fernandez for the county committee nomination. Other rumored contenders include Shelia Sanchez, Rosanna Delgado, Lorraine Cortez-Velez (a former NY Secretary of State and current senior adviser to Mayor de Blasio) and ex-assemblywoman Naomi Rivera. The 80th AD county committee will meet at Maestro’s on Bronxdale Avenue on February 15 to nominate the Democratic candidate to run in the special election.

New York Assembly Passes the DREAM Act — Again

On Monday, the State Assembly pledged to pass the Dream Act legislation for the eighth year in a row. Led by Speaker Heastie and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, the Assembly later held an impassioned debate and passed this important legislation that impacts the lives young undocumented immigrant college students by providing tuition assistance.

“The Assembly majority recognizes that immigrants are a vital thread in the social and economic fabric of our state,” Heastie said. “It is fundamentally and economically misguided to deny students who were educated in our state’s public school system the tools they need to reach their academic potential and fully contribute to our state’s economy.”

The DREAM Act (A.9605) is touted as a way to help ease the cost of higher education for children of immigrants in New York by eliminating obstacles to obtaining state financial aid for undocumented students. Under the proposal, Heastie announced, those students would be eligible for general awards, performance based awards, or the New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) funds if they:

  • Attended an approved NYS high school for two or more years, graduated from an approved NYS high school and applied for attendance to a NYS college or university within five years of receiving their NYS high school diploma; or
  • Attended an approved NYS program for a state high school equivalency diploma, received their state high school equivalency diploma and applied for attendance to a NYS college or university within five years of receiving their state high school equivalency diploma; or
  • Are otherwise eligible for in-state tuition at SUNY, CUNY or community colleges as prescribed by their admission criteria.

Mayor Bill de Blasio testifies in front of the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means Committees on the impacts of the Executive Budget at the Legislative Office Building in Albany, NY on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. Credit: Mayoral Photography Office

De Blasio Asks State To Match City Investment in NYCHA Heating Repairs

In his budget testimony before state lawmakers in Albany on Monday, Mayor de Blasio discussed public housing needs. He said that he came into office dedicated to reversing decades-long disinvestment and touted his administration’s investments of $1.9 billion in capital spending for roof replacement; facade repair at 365 NYCHA buildings; and security improvements at the 15 most dangerous developments that have created a much safer environment.

“This winter we added $200 million in capital to upgrade heating systems at the 20 developments with the most severe heating problems. This will add up to a total capital investment by the City of New York of $2.1 billion which is unprecedented in the history of the city.”

“Now, I’m asking for your support in matching the City’s $200 million investment in heating systems. We’re also investing $9 million in capital and $4 million in expense for rapid response teams and mobile boilers to address the immediate heating crisis and to keep our residents warm.”

“In addition to our capital investment in NYCHA, the City has made $1.6 billion in investments in operating expenses,” concluded Mayor de Blasio’s remarks on NYCHA.

Campaign Finance Board Fines Ex-Council Candidate

The NYC Campaign Finance Board dinged former Council candidate Joann Otero for $4550. Ms. Otero did not receive any public funds. Ms. Otero was a 2016 candidate for Bronx District 17 of the New York City Council. She was defeated in the special election by Rafael Salamanca, Jr.

Also last month, the Campaign Finance Board convened a public hearing to discuss the New York City 2017 elections. The Board usually holds a public hearing after each citywide election cycle in order evaluate the impact of its work. Feedback from the hearing helps to improve the CFB’s administration of the city’s landmark Campaign Finance Program, and inform legislative recommendations that will be included in the agency’s comprehensive Post-Election Report, which will be published in August 2018. The hearing was open to the public as the Board heard feedback from candidates, members of the public, elected officials, civic organizations, and other interested parties.

Speaker Heastie Hosts Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee Event

On Tuesday evening Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie hosts the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee’s winter fundraiser at The Westin New York at Times Square, 270 W. 43rd Street in Manhattan, 6PM.

Transitions

Belated congratulations to Bronxite Jeff Lynch who was named Director of City Legislative Affairs two weeks ago. Lynch was previously First Deputy Commission of the Community Affairs Unit, Assistant Commissioner of Intergovernmental Affairs at Department of Transportation, and Chief of Staff to Council Member James Vacca for 8 years.

Ex-priest Richard Gorman, 63, died on January 23. Fr. Gorman, a longtime CB12 chairman, also served as a board member for the Bronx Chamber of Commerce and the Lehman College Center for the Performing Arts. He was interred at the Gate of Heaven cemetery.

Robert Press contributed to this report.

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