A new public advocate, MTA fare hike and Michael Cohen testimony

Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio announce that Amazon will establish a new corporate headquarters in Long Island City, Queens.
Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio announce that Amazon will establish a new corporate headquarters in Long Island City, Queens.
Governor Andrew Cuomo/Flickr
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

A new public advocate, MTA fare hike and Michael Cohen testimony

Rounding up the week’s political news.
March 1, 2019

Citi Bike announced that it will expand its fleet of electric bicycles to 4,000 in New York City beginning in April, up from 200. While getting an assist from the electric motor is certainly a nifty feature, none of the new bikes will have subaquatic capabilities – even though a rider recently discovered a barnacle encrusted Citi Bike at a docking station.

Did some pioneering bicyclist attempt to cross a river by bike before giving up and abandoning it to the elements? We may never know, but Citi Bike should take note and consider including scuba gear with its next rollout.

Jumaane Williams, public advocate 

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Public advocate Jumaane Williams.
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Public advocate Jumaane Williams.
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Public advocate Jumaane Williams.
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Public advocate Jumaane Williams.
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Public advocate Jumaane Williams.
Image Credit: 
New York City Council/Flickr

After a short but contentious special election, New York City has picked a new public advocate: Jumaane Williams. Despite a large field – 17 candidates were on the ballot – Williams won decisively, with a third of the vote. His closest Democratic rival was Melissa Mark-Viverito, the former council speaker who came in third with about 11 percent of the vote. Despite initial speculation that the crowded ballot could lead to a close election that would’ve encouraged a competitive primary in June – or even elect a Republican – Williams’ margin of victory makes it likely that he will coast to re-election.

The odd couple 

Just weeks after their deal with Amazon fell apart, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio became unlikely allies again when they issued a joint 10-point plan to revamp the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Most notably, the plan identifies congestion pricing as a means to fund repairs, even though de Blasio had previously pushed instead for a tax on millionaires. Long Island state Senate Democrats criticized the plan, saying it focused too much on using new revenue to fix the subways and not enough on the Long Island Rail Road.

MTA raises fares 

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Subway turnstiles.
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Subway turnstiles.
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Subway turnstiles.
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Subway turnstiles.
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Subway turnstiles.
Image Credit: 
Saaton/Shutterstock

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted to increase fares and tolls for the New York City subway system, commuter rail lines and bridges. Although the MTA board decided to keep the base fare the same, weekly and 30-day unlimited MetroCards will increase to $33 and $127, respectively, in April. The MTA also decided to eliminate the 5 percent bonus for putting multiple rides on pay-per-ride cards, which are commonly used by lower-income New Yorkers.

LIRR crash

A fatal Long Island Rail Road crash led to suspended service and residual cancellations and delays for riders for days. Two trains traveling in opposite directions each hit a vehicle after the driver went around the lowered gate at a grade crossing in Nassau County. The three people in the vehicle were killed, while several passengers on the train were injured, a few severely. After hitting the vehicle, one train derailed and slammed into the platform at the Westbury station. The particular grade crossing where the crash occurred had long been considered dangerous.

Cohen testifies

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Michael Cohen
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Michael Cohen
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Michael Cohen
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Michael Cohen
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Photo by a katz/Shutterstock

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, testified before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, painting his former boss as a pathological liar and a criminal, calling him a “con man” and a racist. He also suggested that Trump is under investigation for undisclosed criminal charges in New York. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had a chance to question Cohen, using her time to ask targeted inquiries about Trump’s finances, potentially laying the groundwork for Congress to subpoena his tax returns.

Renewal not getting renewed

After five years and hundreds of millions of dollars, de Blasio finally called it quits on Renewal, his signature education initiative to turn around low-performing schools. Despite the lofty goal, Renewal never succeeded in the ways de Blasio had intended and failed to turn around a number of struggling schools. The New York Times first reported on the likely demise of Renewal in October, when city officials knew that certain schools would fail but kept them open anyway, ultimately harming the students.

Rebecca C. Lewis
is a staff reporter at City & State.
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