State lawmakers’ big raise, a botched firing and new de Blasio emails

Carl Heastie, Speaker of the New York State Assembly.
Carl Heastie, Speaker of the New York State Assembly.
Photo by Mike Groll
Carl Heastie, Speaker of the New York State Assembly.

State lawmakers’ big raise, a botched firing and new de Blasio emails

Rounding up the week’s political news.
December 7, 2018

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be very close to being the first New York governor to give his inauguration address in New Jersey. Cuomo announced that he will give his address on Ellis Island, which, though located in New York Harbor, is actually mostly in New Jersey. The two states divvied up the island with a line snaking around the land mass, with the Empire State on one side and the Garden State on the other. A spokesman for Cuomo reassured anyone concerned that the governor will be speaking on the New York side. But this seems to be cutting it a little close.

State lawmakers get a raise

After 20 years without a pay hike, state lawmakers in New York are finally getting a raise. A compensation commission, made up of four current and former New York City and state comptrollers, recommended that legislators receive a raise to $130,000 phased in over a few years, up from nearly $80,000, which could make New York lawmakers the highest paid in the country. The money will be tied to reforms limiting outside income for lawmakers to 15 percent of their salary and eliminating stipends paid to committee chairs. The decision, which also included a nonbinding recommendation to boost the governor’s pay to $250,000, was lauded by good-government groups for the reforms it included.

Esposito’s exit

New York City Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Esposito recently lost his job amid much confusion. A deputy mayor asked him to resign on Friday, Nov. 30. But Esposito refused, and Mayor Bill de Blasio was out of town and could not provide the final say. De Blasio finally issued a statement the following Monday evening that Esposito would depart, but stay on until his replacement is found. De Blasio had been planning to replace Esposito for weeks, and his firing had nothing to do with the city’s botched response to a November snowstorm, as was originally thought.

“Love you brother”

As part of an NYPD corruption trial, previously undisclosed emails between de Blasio and donor Jona Rechnitz were released that reveal a much closer relationship between de Blasio and Rechnitz, who admitted to bribing the mayor, than de Blasio had described. “Love you brother,” the mayor wrote in one noteworthy email to Rechnitz. The emails should have been released with other exchanges between the two as part of a Freedom of Information Law request last year. A spokesman for de Blasio said that the administration did not hide the emails, but it simply did not have them.Later, when filings revealed the emails came from City Hall, the spokesman said that search criteria have improved.

Amazon’s poll popularity

Despite numerous editorials and elected officials decrying the deal, a new poll from Quinnipiac University found that the majority of New Yorkers are in favor (57 percent to 26 percent) of Amazon locating part of its second headquarters in New York City. Queens residents, the borough Amazon chose, also approved of the deal by similar margins. However, the poll found that New Yorkers as a whole were split on the tax incentives offered to Amazon, with 46 percent approving and 44 percent disapproving.

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