“People often like to joke that the world could be coming to an end but alternate side parking rules would still be in effect,” New York Councilman Justice Brannan observed in a recent tweet. Well, things must be getting pretty dire, because Mayor Bill de Blasio finally suspended those rules for a week. City motorists had been calling on the mayor to suspend street cleaning so they wouldn’t have to leave their self-isolation and expose themselves to COVID-19 to move their cars. And Brannan has been passionately lending his voice to the cause in an attempt to sway a reticent mayor.
This week's biggest Winners & Losers
This week's biggest Winners & Losers
In the big picture, there are no winners when it comes to the coronavirus. But in politics, there are always efforts to capitalize on a crisis, and some politicians are doing it better than others. This week’s Winners & Losers features a number of elected officials who have been commended for their response, and others who have been condemned.
The Master of Disaster was in his element this week commanding the state response to the coronavirus outbreak. While other elected leaders were busy going to the gym, hanging at home with Prince, or denying responsibility, Cuomo was getting stuff done in the state Capitol. The health care system is mobilizing. Confidence in his leadership appears strong. The state budget process is moving forward. Cuomo even got President Donald Trump to send in the Army Corps of Engineers. While #AmericasGovernor is not trending on Twitter, the three-term governor is clearly having a moment.
From light prickly stubble to a distinguished goatee, many of New York's lawmakers have some glorious facial hair. Which leads any civic-minded New Yorker to wonder: Which beard reigns supreme? According to City & State readers, it looks like the state Legislature's longest serving member, Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, wins the battle of the beards. Next time you see him call out the governor's Medicaid plans, take a minute to join us in appreciating those snow white whiskers.
It looks like Sharon Lee will continue her reign over Queens as acting borough president way longer now that the coronavirus helped postpone the date for the office’s special election. And Lee isn't sitting quietly in this time of crisis. She has been putting in funding for the fire department’s decontamination efforts and – as the first borough president of Asian descent – she has been quick to call out anti-Asian racism amid the outbreak. Who says borough presidents have no power?
There must be some kind of record for the shortest time between when a piece of legislation is introduced and when it’s signed by the governor. If so, state Sen. Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan’s emergency paid sick leave bill is in the running. Their legislation, which provides job protections and sick leave for employees under quarantine because of the coronavirus, was introduced, passed in both houses and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo within 48 hours. Leave it to a global pandemic to show just how quickly Albany can get things done.
While New York City residents have been urged to stay home if possible to avoid spreading COVID-19, the Brooklyn borough president has been making his staff of nearly 65 people continue to come into the office. However, at least he is allowing five of his high-risk employees to work from home. Adams justified having his employees come in by saying that his office provides essential services and insisted that he’s not putting his employees at risk. This move may surprise some, but it’s hardly the first time Adams has shocked New Yorkers.
Despite all of his workouts at his favorite Prospect Park YMCA, Hizzoner has been a bit sluggish when it’s come to the city’s growing number of COVID-19 cases. As other cities throughout the nation have taken more aggressive steps to curb the spread of the virus, de Blasio has been slowly enforcing new restrictions. It would do the mayor good to remember that not so long ago, Italy’s government moved at a similarly leisurely pace and has warned other countries against making the same mistake.
Trying to stay on top of New York’s massive budget is a daunting task, but Robert Mujica, the governor’s budget director, has never shied away from that challenge. Yet even Mujica’s fiscal savvy might not be enough to balance the budget this year. The state was already facing a $6.1 budget gap before a global pandemic broke out. Now, a new federal coronavirus relief bill threatens $2.5 billion in proposed Medicaid savings meant to help close that hole. Now, a new report from the state comptroller predicts an additional revenue shortfall of between $4 billion and $7 billion due to the coronavirus outbreak. Looks like the 12-hour days Mujica normally puts in are going to get even longer.
Only one man in New York gets to claim the title of “Queens Boy,” and it’s not Iggy Terranova. Terranova, a former Department of Sanitation official, is challenging state Sen. Michael Gianaris for his Queens state Senate seat, and has positioned himself as a nearly lifelong resident of Astoria. But reporting this week suggests that Terranova has lived outside the city for several years, and has owned a home in Nassau County since 2006. Terranova has centered his challenge to Gianaris on attacking the Senate deputy majority leader’s handling of the Amazon HQ2 deal, but we wouldn’t be surprised if Terranova may now end up spending more time than he likes on the campaign defending his Queens cred.
The usual bag of political tricks hasn’t been working for the president in recent weeks. He tried pretending the coronavirus – or at least the media’s coverage of it – was a Democratic hoax. Somehow, the virus continued spreading. His Twitter attacks on Cuomo have not calmed calls by governors for more federal aid. Trump’s underappreciation for expertise is now hurting his political prospects and, arguably, the nation at large. So let’s all be glad that the president has reversed his position in recent days by pretending that he was the one sounding the alarm on the virus all along. Maybe if we all just nod along, Trump will butt out of the government response just long enough to save us all.