This past week was a time for visiting family, opening presents, drinking eggnog – and taking sides in the divisive debate over guns. Following the massacre in Newtown, Conn., and the shooting of two firefighters in upstate New York, the question of gun control has spurred a push for more restrictions on one side, a call for arming teachers on the other and, from one New York newspaper, a controversial map of registered handgun owners. City & State isn’t taking a side in the gun control debate, but as always we have your weekly winners and their polar opposites, the losers.
Janet Hasson – The president and publisher of The Journal News found herself on the defensive this week after her newspaper published the names and addresses of residents of Westchester and Rockland counties who are registered handgun owners. The online, interactive map was put together legally, using publicly available data, and was published along with a story delving into how much people know about whether their neighbors own any guns. The map went viral and prompted a vociferous response from many gun owners, who called it a dangerous invasion of privacy. But a newspaper’s business is disseminating public information, and Hasson and her staff took a courageous step in carrying out that role.
Ray Kelly – The police commissioner received some validation of the NYPD’s controversial policing tactics with the release of crime statistics this week that show homicides down by 19 percent from the previous year. New York City tallied just 414 murders so far, putting the city on track for its lowest total since recordkeeping began, something for Kelly to hang his hat on as we ring in the New Year. That’s not to say that Kelly gets off completely scot-free, as a report released by the city comptroller showed that while violent crime is in decline, financial claims against the NYPD have skyrocketed with a record 8,882 filed in the last fiscal year. A combination of that stat with the persistent backlash against stop-and-frisk means the Commish will still have something to prove in 2013.
Colin Myler – Whether or not you agree with the petition Myler’s New York Daily News has been running for an assault weapons ban in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, it has struck a chord with many readers, including the tens of thousands who have already signed on. Not only that, but a number of prominent public officials are on board, including Council Speaker Christine Quinn, City Comptroller John Liu, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the new Senate minority leader. Of course, there are plenty of people on the other side of the issue, including thousands who have signed another petition to send cable news anchor Piers Morgan back across the pond over his criticism of gun advocates.
Mark Poloncarz – The Erie County executive helped score a big win for the city of Buffalo with the announcement of a new lease to keep the Bills in Western New York for the next ten years, ending rampant speculation that the beloved NFL team would move north to Toronto or west to Los Angeles. The deal includes a facelift for the aging Ralph Wilson Stadium and forces the team to pony up $400 million if they decide to break the lease and leave town. However, in the fine print of the agreement, the Bills only have to fund 16 percent of the stadium renovations, with the rest falling on the backs of New York taxpayers, who will be on the hook for $123 million. At that price tag, the Bills better return to the glory days rather than continue to wallow at the bottom of the standings.
Bill Thompson, Bill de Blasio and John Liu – Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision not to spend money on the 2013 mayoral race might end up helping Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the perceived frontrunner, since it distances her from her longtime ally and his record at City Hall. Then again, it could hurt her since the mayor has boatloads of cash to spend. But with his personal fortune out of the picture, Bloomberg at least won’t be able to buy – er, finance – yet another election victory. And the absence of independent expenditures from the mayor should make life easier for the other three Democrats who are running to succeed him.
William Boyland, Jr. – Boyland received a lump of coal in his stocking this week when he got the news—on Christmas Eve, no less—that he would not be receiving any taxpayer-funded legal aid to defend himself on charges of corruption. A federal judge shot down Boyland’s attempts to cry poverty, citing property he owns that is valued at $460,000 and his $79,500 salary as an assemblyman as ample enough financial resources to afford his own defense. The judge also ordered Boyland to reimburse the city for taxpayer money he already paid to his legal defense team due to an administrative error. Experts estimate that Boyland’s legal fees will cost him anywhere between $75,000 and $200,000, so maybe he should think about putting that pricey property on the market.
Joseph Daniels – It’s no surprise that costs are rising for the 9/11 Foundation, given that it has more than doubled its staff. But what Daniels, the foundation’s president and CEO, will have to deal with is the decline in donations and grants, which fell from $87 million to $78 million in 2011. Daniels told The Wall Street Journal that the foundation has just finished a fundraising campaign and would be getting money from multiple sources, but the trend still appears problematic. Plus, Daniels’ explanation may be less than compelling to some, given that he raked in a salary of over $366,000 last year.
Rubén Díaz, Sr. – The state senator took shots at several big names in New York politics in one of his must-read “What You Should Know” columns this week. His top ten New Year’s resolutions and wishes included Sen. John Sampson – who was recently toppled as the leader of the Senate Democrats – finding more faithful friends, Gov. Andrew Cuomo admitting he created the mess in the state Senate, and, harshest of all, Sen. Malcolm Smith getting “another minority to join him in order for him not to be the only Uncle Tom in the house.” If Sen. Díaz was looking to make friends in the political world, he certainly went about it the wrong way.
Donald Trump – It’s almost too easy with this guy. Trump killed his own development deal for a $24 million catering hall in Jones Beach, aptly named Trump On the Ocean, because of concerns over the extensive damage to the land from Hurricane Sandy. Trump said that he and Rose Harvey, the state parks commissioner, agreed that due to the building’s design, which included a full basement, it no longer made sense to move forward with the project. Trump endured a six-year legal battle over building code regulations for the development, and touted the job creating prospects and revenue that the project would generate for the state. But as usual with Trump, it turned out to be a whole lot of hot air, even if it wasn’t his fault.
Stanley Winter – A loss doesn’t get more straightforward than this. When Winter’s New York Retired Public Employees Association learned they were not immune to the health care increases negotiated by public employees unions, RPEA sought to challenge the decision by filing a lawsuit. The suit was dismissed this week by Supreme Court Justice George B. Ceresia, who said the petitioners failed to make their case. Now retired workers have to endure the costs of individual healthcare plans jumping from $59 to $95 per month for individuals and $250 to $330 a month for families. While the dismissal was certainly a setback for the group, it still might appeal the ruling.
NOTE: In last week’s Winners and Losers list, we listed Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas Madison as a loser for the scuttled 45 percent toll hike but failed to note that he also had a big success: the selection of a winning bid for a new Tappan Zee Bridge that is about $1 billion below the state’s initial cost estimate and which came about in a remarkably short time frame.