Last week, David Bellavia was a former soldier, a past congressional candidate and local radio personality in Buffalo. Now, he is known nationally as a recipient of the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military distinction. He received the award in recognition of actions he took in Fallujah 2004, when he single-handedly fought off enemy soldiers when his platoon was pinned down so that his squad could escape. He’s still thinking about others first, telling reporters in response to the honor, “I have so much respect for the men who wear this.”
David Bellavia's historic honor
David Bellavia's historic honor
Update: City & State's Winners & Losers often spurs partisan disagreement over who really belongs on the list, but there was no such debate about this week's top vote-getter: David Bellavia, a Western New York native who is set to become the Iraq War's first living recipient of the Medal of Honor. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Lederer, a prosecutor in the infamous Central Park Five case, had an unfavorable verdict: Biggest loser.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a conservative firebrand from Texas, is teaming up with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the progressive darling from the Bronx. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, and Rep. Chris Collins, a Republican, are in the same boat. And these aren’t the only strange bedfellows blurring the lines in New York politics. So for something a little more straightforward, we give you this week’s Winners & Losers.
The presidential bids of these two New Yorkers haven’t exactly shaped up as they’d hoped. But U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s campaign said this week that she had crossed the threshold of 65,000 donors needed to qualify for the first Democratic debate. Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio apparently couldn’t even understand the rules. But at the end of the day, both of them made the cut for the first presidential debate set for later this month.
Earlier this year, it was unclear whether an effort to end non-medical vaccination exemptions would gain traction in Albany. But as the number of measles cases rose – primarily in areas with large numbers of parents who opted against vaccinating their children – momentum built behind the state legislation. Once the controversial bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Dinowitz and state Sen. Hoylman, passed both houses this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo promptly signed it, defying a vocal minority of anti-vaxxers – including his formerbrother-in-law.
The “Wonder Twins” are back with a deal on rent regulations that left Gov. Andrew Cuomo out in the cold. Activists are pleased that they got eight out of the nine reform bills they wanted, and the Assembly speaker and state Senate majority leader can rest a little easier in the last few days of the legislative session now that they got one of their top issues done. The governor can grumble that it was not that great of a deal – but he might be a little jealous that he has no tag-team partner of his own.
The state attorney general is looking to do what President Donald Trump will not – block a merger between Spring and T-Mobile. James leads a group of 10 state attorneys general who argue that the deal would cost consumers more than $4 billion each year. For James, the lawsuit shows that she is finding plenty of new ways to use her office to go after the president, who has been getting some new hotel business from telecommunications executives in recent months.
He had one job – and the expansive new rent regulation package introduced by state lawmakers shows that he failed spectacularly at that job. When John Banks came on to lead the real estate industry’s powerful lobbying arm, things got passed in Albany in the best interest of REBNY’s deep-pocketed real estate developer community. But with Republicans booted out of the state Capitol, and a crop of pro-tenant Democrats replacing them, Big Real Estate just couldn’t bank on Banks.
New Yorkers were shocked – SHOCKED – that Bronx New York City Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr., a quiet, under-the-radar guy, would EVER be embroiled in controversy. And yet, the unthinkable happened this week, when it was disclosed that Diaz reported accepting some $30,000 in “birthday gifts” from a clergy organization and a church. Diaz – who would certainly never yell at a reporter and hang up – will surely give a clear and thorough accounting of this incident so as to put it behind him.
Staten Island garbage-hauling kingpin William Formica is accused of helping hide evidence in an ex-con’s alleged murder of a Staten Island man, and he’s now going to pay for the scandal. Last month, it was reported that Formica still held his waste-hauling license five months after the alleged crime. This week, however, the Business Integrity Commission finally revoked his credentials, leaving Formica’s waste-hauling business in the dump.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio moved this week to permanently extend a one-year cap on new for-hire vehicle licenses, delivering a blow to app-based companies Uber, Lyft, Juno and Via, who won’t be able to expand their fleets in the city. Josh Gold, who leads Uber’s public affairs in New York, may be feeling the biggest loss, as the company is suing over the one-year cap, which some in the industry already feared would become permanent. At least he can say he saw it coming.
The arc of the universe is long … 30 years long. Three decades ago, Lederer prosecuted the so-called Central Park Five as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan. Now, she’s stepping down as a lecturer at Columbia Law due to the negative attention she’s received following the release of the Netflix miniseries “When They See Us.” Since when is being in a TV show bad for your career? Since that TV show dramatized her use of coerced confessions that led to wrongful convictions.