News & Politics

JCOPE’s last stand and Gateway moves forward

Rounding up the week’s political news.

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law three new climate-related bills, including one meant to reduce building emissions in the state.

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law three new climate-related bills, including one meant to reduce building emissions in the state. Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul

Nothing says Fourth of July weekend quite like… sharks? Swimmers at Jones Beach on Long Island got a surprise late last week when a man suffered an apparent shark bite. Two more apparent shark attacks occurred at Fire Island and Ocean Beach in the following days, with a fourth potential sighting that didn’t lead to injury. But don’t go worrying about a real-life Jaws just yet. Despite their sharp teeth and carnivorous nature, sharks don’t generally bother with people. Perhaps just use some caution when you hit the waters, and keep reading for the rest of the week’s news.

Hochul tackles the environment

Following action taken to address U.S. Supreme Court rulings on abortion and guns, Gov. Kathy Hochul shifted gears to climate change and the environment, once again referencing a recent decision. This time, Supreme Court justices rolled back the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory authority over power plant emissions. She cited the decision as she signed into law three new climate-related bills, including one meant to reduce building emissions in the state, a major source of greenhouse gasses. Hochul again spoke about the urgency of the climate crisis when she announced $255 million in clean water infrastructure. However, she still hasn’t indicated whether she will sign a moratorium on cryptocurrency mining, a major environmental priority for advocates that passed the state Legislature.

Gateway moves forward

Hochul and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy agreed to split the state-level costs of the Gateway Project down the middle, paving the way for a new train tunnel under the Hudson River delayed thanks to years of political squabbling between the two states as well as the federal government. New York and New Jersey previously reached an agreement with the federal government in 2015, but then Govs. Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie disagreed on how they would split their share of the costs. And though they ostensibly settled matters in 2017, they ran into the Trump-led federal government, stalling the project once again. When the regime changed, Cuomo suddenly began suggesting alternatives to the Gateway Project. Hochul’s and Murphy’s new memorandum of understanding offers new hope to project proponents that it’s actually back on track.

New crime data in NYC

Following the violent Fourth of July weekend that saw over 50 people shot – including seven who died – the New York City Police Department released new crime statistics that showed shootings have gone down this June compared to June of 2021. The city also saw a decrease in murders both year-to-date compared to last year as well as in June compared to May. However, overall crime had increased by about 30% year-over-year. Concerns over crime continue to drive political conversations at both the city and state levels, with public safety a key factor for the GOP in the race for governor.

JCOPE’s last stand

In the last hours of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics’ existence, the now defunct state ethics agency decided to release a report on how former Gov. Andrew Cuomo got approval for his controversial COVID-19 book deal. It found that Cuomo and his administration largely had control of the situation, setting the terms for what information it would disclose and when. The report ultimately concluded that JCOPE effectively rolled over for Cuomo and allowed him to coerce the agency into expediting the approval with minimal oversight. The decision by JCOPE to release the report, the results of an independent investigation it had ordered, was the agency’s final move before it officially dissolved. It has now been replaced by the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government, which currently only has an executive director and no commissioners appointed. 

Pay raise comes to lifeguard’s rescue

As New York City public pools officially opened for the summer, the city faced a shortage of lifeguards there and at beaches to keep swimmers safe. At first, Mayor Eric Adams said that raising their pay would not help alleviate the staffing crisis. But after a significant pressure campaign, he announced that lifeguards would receive a 20% pay bump, with starting salaries now sitting at $19 per hour. Until the city can staff up, many New Yorkers will have limited access to public pools and beaches, with some unable to open and others forced to limit their capacities.