Winners and Losers 12/19/14
Winners and Losers 12/19/14
Gov. Andrew Cuomo sucked all the oxygen out of New York politics this week. On Wednesday, the state both banned fracking and picked the sites for three new casinos. Clearly Cuomo had nothing to do with the decisions, or their timing—but that didn't stop him from basking in praise and taking a victory tour to round out his week. Did all the attention land the governor on our Winners list, or did angering the Southern Tier and other parts of New York hoping for an economic boost this week that didn't come cancel out the upside and make him a Loser? Read on to find out.
Anti-Fracking Activists - They have been giving Cuomo a hard time for years, but they were quick to change their tune Wednesday—tweeting out their praises for all the internet to see—in the wake of the governor’s announcement that the state would move to ban hydrofracking in the state. It’s a big victory for opponents of the oil drilling industry everywhere: Cuomo’s decision sends a strong message to national leaders that it isn’t just some fringe hippies who have grave concerns about the potential hazards fracking poses to public health and the environment.
John Bonacic - The Republican state senator had pushed for two casinos in the Catskills, and he only got one—but that doesn’t change that fact that he was still one of the biggest winners in New York’s casino sweepstakes. The selection of a Sullivan County proposal—the $1 billion Montreign Resort Casino, part of a larger Adelaar resort—could bring a needed spark to Bonacic’s struggling Catskills district. Plus, the siting committee’s bold decision to take Orange County off the table entirely will pay huge dividends for the Catskills, which will not have to compete so hard to attract downstate high rollers.
Joseph Martens - However you feel about the state’s decision to ban fracking, there is no doubt in our minds that the commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, who has been a punching bag for folks on both sides of the issue, will be glad if he never hears the word “fracking” ever again.
Gary McCarthy – Orange County hit a red, but Schenectady got the green light. The state’s casino siting board this week recommended the Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor as its sole pick in the Capital Region, putting the city on track to host a full-fledged casino within two years. McCarthy, the city’s mayor, said he was excited about the waterfront development—and another kind of green it will bring.
Cy Vance - There is a lot of talk about how the state should spend the more than $5 billion in bank settlement money that has rolled into the state, but Vance isn't waiting. He has quickly distributed his part of the pot on criminal justice measures, including infrastructure improvements at NYPD precincts and $101 million to upgrade security at NYCHA housing—something that has been sorely lacking in recent years. The Manhattan DA's moves have also led to a lot of good press, including a long, glowing profile recently in the Times.
Byron Brown - It’s been a tough week for Buffalo’s mayor—no, make that a tough year. Buffalo Business First recently analyzed the new FBI report on violent crime and found that in 2013, Buffalo was the second-most violent city in New York State. (The dubious honor for most violent city belonged to Niagara Falls.) Just 24 hours later, two people were murdered in Buffalo, raising the city’s homicide tally past its 2013 mark of 47 to 51, and counting. Meanwhile, a new federal audit of the city’s housing authority found that many of its properties were swarming with vermin, occupied by squatters, and maintained by untrained personnel. Finally, a recent letter by Jim Malatras, Gov. Cuomo’s director of state operations, called out Buffalo by name as it detailed a list of educational deficiencies that need to be addressed, saying, “What should we do about the deplorable conditions of the education system in Buffalo?” Not all of this is Mayor Brown’s fault, but three strikes in a single week is not good.
Thomas Galante - The Queens Public Library finally fired Galante from his role as president and CEO. The guy has been getting horrible press all year for his habit of playing fast and loose with taxpayer money, while simultaneously pulling down $392,000 a year for his labors. As far back as April Queens Borough President Melinda Katz was calling on the board of trustees to suspend Galante, in light of federal and city probes into his lavish spending, which included a $140,000 renovation to his executive offices and $40,000 for food, booze and entertainment in 2013. Our only question is why did it take so long to cut him loose?
Tom Libous - It’s usually good to be on Cuomo’s good side, but that hasn’t helped the Senate Republicans’ deputy leader lately. Libous, who is already under federal indictment, got a double dose of bad news this week: On Wednesday morning, the governor announced a ban on fracking, which might have boosted Libous’ struggling Binghamton-area district. Hours later, a state siting board declined to award a casino license in the region. Not even the governor could come up with a positive spin for the Southern Tier.
Karen Magee - While it’s her job as the New York State United Teachers union's president to defend teachers, very few people—including NYSUT itself—seem to believe in the validity of the most recent teacher evaluation results that rated only one percent of teachers “ineffective.” Maybe the officials responsible for tallying the evaluations flunked their math classes in grade school?
Steve Neuhaus - Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus didn’t have to decide which casino bid he liked best—with six proposals within the county’s borders, including Genting’s lavish Sterling Forest Resort & Casino and Caesars' $880 million project, and its close proximity to the five boroughs, his county initially seemed like a lock. But for various reasons—most notably to allow another casino project to thrive in the Catskills—the state skipped the county entirely, opting to weigh local need over maximum revenues.