This week's biggest Winners & Losers

This week's biggest Winners & Losers

Who's up and who's down this week?
March 12, 2020

Events are being cancelled left and right as New York endeavors to stop the spread of the coronavirus. But events were still happening on schedule on Monday night when New York City Councilman Donovan Richards – arguably the frontrunner in the race for Queens borough president – skipped a forum co-hosted by City & State. What, afraid to face tough questions in public? We’re not afraid to call people losers, but we declare just as many winners.

Winners: 
Gonzalo Casals

The last cultural affairs commish left amid a battle over how to honor prominent women and people of color New York City with new monuments. So who better to step up the city's efforts on arts and diversity in the role than Gonzalo Casals? The queer Argentian museum director – who currently heads a SoHo museum dedicated to LGBT art – has pledged to continue boosting opportunities for different communties in the art world. Expect to see Casals play more of an activist role compared with his predecessor.

Joan Illuzzi

Fears that Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein might prove to be untouchable were ultimately unfounded, as he was sentenced to 23 years in prison this week. It was the judge’s decision, but the case’s lead prosecutor, Joan Illuzzi of the Manhattan district attorney’s office, deserves credit for pushing hard for a “max or near-maximum” sentence. She’ll be a hell of a character when it’s turned into a movie.

Letitia James

Ladies and gentlemen, holster your phantom weapons: state Attorney General Letitia James is coming for your 3D-printed ghost guns. Not literally, but James did declare victory this week when a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction requested by James and 20 other attorneys general to stop the Trump administration from allowing 3D-printed ghost gun blueprints online. Plus, Tish touted a policy change at the state Department of Health allowing transgender minors to change the sex designation on their birth certificates. James celebrated the news, though the anonymous plaintiff – a minor identified as only “M.H.W.” – deserves credit, too.

Gerard Kassar & Sochie Nnaemeka

Working Families Party State Director Sochie Nnaemeka and the state Conservative Party Chairman Gerard Kassar don’t usually see eye to eye. But when it came to opposing the state Campaign Finance Reform Commission, the left- and right-wing third parties found themselves flying together. And now, they can share in a court victory, as a state Supreme Court judge ruled that the commission behind the controversial campaign finance changes – including stricter requirements for third parties – was unconstitutional. Any joint revelry will follow standard Thanksgiving rules: no talking about politics.

Elise de Castillo

Nassau County police will no longer be doing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement any extra favors. The county's law enforcement officials will stop detaining immigrants who should otherwise go free just because ICE is trying to deport them. This shift is a major victory for Elise de Castillo, who heads a Long Island nonprofit that challenged the policy in court. Luckily for her, the legal battle can come to a close now that county officials have conceded defeat.

Losers: 
John Bruckner

The National Grid president got lectured this week by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer in a strongly worded letter about the company’s long-term infrastructure and rate-hike plans. The city and state need help meeting their climate goals, so National Grid better up its game on reducing gas consumption. Otherwise, Stringer warned of a public takeover of the natural gas utility. Pressure from a 2021 mayoral hopeful courting votes from lefty millennials isn’t by itself a game-changer for National Grid. But environmentalists are breathing down Bruckner’s neck, and he needs all the support he can get from political heavyweights.

David DiPietro & Stephen Hawley

Upstate secession efforts suffered a blow this week when an Assembly committee voted down two bills introduced by these upstate Republicans. So much for that proposed referendum on creating two new states. Better luck next time with the idea of dividing New York into a loose confederacy of three autonomous regions. Past efforts to create new states haven’t gone any better. Just ask residents of northern California/southern Oregon what happened to the proposed state of Jefferson after Pearl Harbor.

Mark Gjonaj

Americans are innocent until proven guilty, but with a track record of unflattering headlines like New York City Councilman Mark Gjonaj’s, a new report suggesting he may be the subject of a criminal probe won’t win him any more sympathy in the court of public opinion. Gjonaj has been subpoenaed by law enforcement officials, although other than that, little is known. If nothing else, this latest entry in the saga of Gjonaj’s missteps serves as a reminder that there IS a saga to know about in the first place.

M. Licon-Vitale

A loaded gun was found in an inmate’s cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the federal prison where Jeffrey Epstein died of suicide, and the development triggered a lockdown. Now M. Licon-Vitale, who was appointed the prison’s acting warden just one month ago, will have to deal with the fallout from the major security breach, which is just the latest controversy at the facility.

Harvey Weinstein

The disgraced former film producer was hit with a surprisingly long 23 year-long prison sentence for sex crimes on Wednesday, despite pleading for a much shorter sentence. Then again, Weinstein should be ready: In a story straight out of Hollywood, he had already brought on a “prison consultant” to teach him about “the journey” from living freely to getting locked up.

City & State
20200601