Shutting Rikers, de Blasio's NYC and the Florida shooting

Recapping the top political news of the week in New York.

Todd Howe returned to the stand this week in the trial of Joe Percoco following Howe’s arrest for violating his plea agreement. Fortunately for him, the judge allowed Howe – a key witness in the case against Cuomo’s former top aide – to wear a suit instead of a prison jumpsuit in court. Newly released polls also spelled out bad news for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, showing that is favorability has dropped and New Yorkers don’t want him to run for president. And the state Legislature decided to move the date of New York’s primaries, an important note to remember come November. That and more in this week’s latest headlines.

A school shooting in Florida

A gunman opened fired at a Florida high school this week, killing at least 17 people. President Trump didn’t mention gun laws, but Cuomo touted New York’s SAFE Act as a model for the nation. The gun control law passed in 2013 broadened the definition of “assault weapon,” banning more types of guns, including the kind the Florida shooter allegedly used. Rep. Chris Collins, who is trying to pass federal legislation to repeal the SAFE Act, said gun control is not the issue in regards to the shooting.

A prison by any other name

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the location of the four facilities to replace the Rikers Island jail complex, one for each borough except Staten Island. De Blasio and the City Council announced the agreement amid pressure from the state to speed up a 10-year plan for closing problem-plagued Rikers. Just hours before the de Blasio’s official announcement, a state commission released a report saying the situation is so bad that the state may shutter the jail sooner. But moving quicker may be difficult if the new facilities aren’t able to house all the inmates. The four prisons can only accommodate 5,000 inmates, while the Rikers population stands at 9,000.

My fair city

During his State of the City address, de Blasio said he wants to make New York City “the fairest big city in America.” Among his goals? Improving democracy, fixing campaign finance and protecting elections from hackers. But the mayor was lacking in details and new ideas and barely mentioned the subway or homelessness crises. And prior to his speech, de Blasio was greeted by demonstrators protesting the many failures of the New York City Housing Authority.  

The budget dance continues

Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled a slew of amendments to his executive budget, from early voting, to keeping sex offenders out of shelters with families and away from schools, to prohibiting “gay panic” and “trans panic” as a defense for assault. The governor and the state Legislature face an April 1 budget deadline. And when it comes to Cuomo’s payroll tax proposal, Republican lawmakers are skeptical that the tax code could even be restructured in time.