This Week's Headline

COVID-19 concerns and mixed MTA updates

Rounding up the week’s political news.

Vaccine center at the Gerald Carter Center on Staten Island.

Vaccine center at the Gerald Carter Center on Staten Island. Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

New York loves a good escaped farm animal story, and a gripping new saga entered into the history books this week. A bull scheduled to be slaughtered escaped a farm in Suffolk on Tuesday and has been on the lam for days, deftly avoiding authorities trying to capture him. So far, no method used to lure him out has worked, and as of Friday, he remained elusive. Good for him. Maybe the bull just felt strongly about redistricting, and wanted to give his two cents about the bovine representation at the first public meeting on the matter on Long Island.

COVID-19 concerns continue

As the delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread, so does concern about rising numbers of cases and avoiding another resurgence. The vast majority of hospitalizations now are of people who have not received the vaccine. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio introduced a new vaccine mandate for all public hospital and city health care employees. Those who refuse would need to get regularly tested for the disease. There’s also growing concern about kids under 12, who are still not approved to get the vaccine. An outbreak has occurred at an upstate summer camp among the young campers there, and while none are seriously sick, there is concern that similar outbreaks may occur once school begins. The unvaccinated are not the only ones getting sick. Although the cases are milder, so-called breakthrough cases are still occurring among those who are fully vaccinated, and they are still able to spread the disease. Some lawmakers are calling for the return of an indoor mask mandate in New York City, although de Blasio has not heeded those calls.

Mixed news from the MTA

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board met for a public, in-person meeting for the first time in over a year, where they announced some welcome and some not-so-welcome news. Straphangers and commuters should be pleased to hear that the MTA decided to delay a planned fare hike for the upcoming year so as not to discourage anyone from taking mass transit as ridership on the subway and commuter rails still hasn’t rebounded to prepandemic levels. But the agency also warned of potential service cuts of up to 15% in the coming years in anticipation of ridership never fully returning to where it stood before the coronavirus. At the same time, right now, the MTA continues to lose subway workers, leading to significant delays and reduced service throughout the year so far.

AirTrain to LaGuardia gets the thumbs up

The federal government has given the official go ahead for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to begin construction of an AirTrain between LaGuardia Airport and Eastern Queens. The project was the brainchild of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, despite the proposal receiving little support from transit experts as well as local leaders and residents. Many had instead advocated for an extension of the N/W line, arguing it would benefit local residents more, while the AirTrain would harm East Elmhurst residents. Transit experts also pointed out that those traveling from Manhattan would need to double back at the transfer point, instead of a straight shot with the subway. 

Cuomo aide draws scrutiny

A tweet from one of Cuomo’s top aides, Rich Azzopardi, about Attorney General Letitia James earned a rebuke from the head of Assembly impeachment inquiry. Azzopardi said James’ investigation into sexual harassment claims against the governor is tainted with politics because she may run for governor – something that she has repeatedly denied. Assembly Member and chair of the Judiciary Committee Charles Lavine responded by saying that the tweet undermined the investigation and served to intimidate witnesses. Lavine added Cuomo could face “serious repercussions” for the statement. The governor’s lawyers shot back soon after, defending Azzopardi and saying Lavine’s letter raised “constitutional concerns.”

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