These two Davids from Queens stared down the Corporate Goliath and won, hitting Amazon with a relentless barrage of pebbles between the eyes. “Excessive subsidies” – HIT. Will raise housing prices – HIT. “Won’t unionize” – KILL SHOT. Lord knows state Sen. Michael Gianaris and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer now have to answer to the majority of New Yorkers who wanted Amazon, including a governor who’s seething. But the deal’s opponents are recognizing the pair as conquering heroes.
Sexual harassment survivors voted last week's biggest winners
Sexual harassment survivors voted last week's biggest winners
Update: While Amazon's HQ2 exit was the biggest story last week, the biggest winners were the members of the Sexual Harassment Working Group, which achieved a major goal when the state Legislature finally held its first sexual harassment hearing in over a quarter century. Readers overwhelming voted for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio as the biggest winners in the wake of Amazon's stunning pull-out.
Former AM Vito Lopez was obsessed with being City & State's biggest winner of the week. Now, you can honor women who are working hard to change a culture that enabled abusers like him by voting for the Sexual Harassment Working Group (@harassment_free): https://t.co/UQTVYqPZDm— Chloë Rivera (@abcdefgetc) February 15, 2019
Judging from the flurry of tweets, press releases and statements issued on Thursday, either New York City is going down in flames or it has just achieved its greatest victory. Even if the rhetoric on both sides is a little exaggerated, Amazon’s abrupt decision to cancel its HQ2 plan certainly has made some Winners & Losers this week.
House Appropriations Committee chair Rep. Nita Lowey threw a Hail Mary in overtime, crafting border security legislation that will likely keep the federal government open and partially fund a “barrier” – not to be confused with a “wall.” But Dems might want to hold off on her Gatorade shower. McConnell signaled on Thursday that Trump will sign Lowey’s bill and simultaneously declare a national emergency to build the wall. What’s the opposite of “crisis averted’”?
It’s a double win for the developer. The RXR honcho gets a piece of the action in redeveloping the Grand Hyatt, that glassy block attached to Grand Central. And to avoid a conflict of interest in dealing with the MTA, he’s resigning from its board, just as the body is at its weakest point, being kicked on the ground by a gleeful Cuomo who just booted them out of the L train shutdown negotiations.
It took a while, but the City University of New York finally has a new chancellor – and he was already in the neighborhood. Felix Matos Rodriguez will take over the expansive public university system in the city, bringing valuable experience as the leader of CUNY’s Queens College and, prior to that, heading CUNY’s Eugenio María de Hostos Community College. He also is making history as the first Latino in the influential post.
It’s unfortunate that the state Legislature had not held a hearing on sexual harassment since 1992. It’s unfortunate that such hearings are needed in the first place. But what’s not unfortunate is the hard work of seven women that resulted in the first sexual harassment hearing in Albany in decades. The Sexual Harassment Working Group, made up of former legislative staffers who either say they experienced or reported harassment, is one of the main driving forces to led to Wednesday’s marathon hearing. And while its work, and the work of lawmakers, is far from over, simply getting the voices of victims heard is a big step forward to addressing such a pervasive issue.
This isn’t what either the governor or the mayor wanted – but when you purposefully cut out lawmakers from a process in which you dangle billions of dollars in incentives to a huge and hugely profitable company that’s owned by the wealthiest man on earth, you’ve got to expect some kind of backlash. De Blasio had harsher parting words for Amazon, while Cuomo trained his ire on his Democratic colleagues in the state Senate – who were quite enjoying their short-lived period of Pax Democratica. If there’s any silver lining, it’s that most voters were on their side on the Amazon deal.
After a long history of controversial comments, one finally landed Díaz in hot enough water to lead to some consequences. After saying that the New York City Council is “controlled by the homosexual community,” that very same body voted to dissolve the Subcommittee on For-Hire Vehicles that he chaired – and that had been custom-made for him anyway. Díaz refused to apologize, instead calling himself the victim amid the backlash. Even after the censure, he contended the real losers are the cab drivers his subcommittee was meant to help. Perhaps Diaz’s absolute refusal to back down will result in even more losses.
In a crowded field of candidates for New York City public advocate, Assemblyman Ron Kim had reckoned that he could stick out by opposing the city’s deal with Amazon. But running under the “No Amazon” ballot line is a mixed blessing for Kim following the company’s Valentine’s Day breakup with the city. He still has another plank in his platform – student debt – to rail against. But he no longer gets to suggest – however disingenuously – that $3 billion in future tax breaks to Amazon could somehow be diverted to the cause.
Former correction officers union leader Norman Seabrook finally hit the ground after his free fall from grace. Seabrook was sentenced to 58 months in prison for squirrelling away potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars from the union he led. The once powerful New York City figure was found guilty in 2018 of accepting a bribe and additional charges of conspiracy. He and two co-conspirators will also have to pay back $19 million as part of the sentence, the amount that the union lost due to a risky investment made by Seabrook for a kickback. He should have known that crime doesn’t pay.
A half-century worth of misbehavior caught up with Spring Valley Mayor Alan Simon this week. A state judge ruled this week that the Hudson Valley politician’s penchant for bullying staff, ranting in court and threatening fellow officials with arrest is not becoming of an attorney. Though Simon has been disbarred, he still gets to play the political game. However, Simon now has to say “(bleep)” from his current position in the executive branch rather than the courtroom because he was previously booted from a judgeship as well.