New York’s weird science: RedistrictingSeptember 16, 2021
Hello again, redistricting nerds (a term of endearment). It’s been a busy year already, but one major storyline of 2021 is just now heating up.
Wednesday was supposed to mark a big step in the state’s process of redrawing Senate, Assembly and congressional districts with the release of proposed maps from the Independent Redistricting Commission.
It’s unclear whether that step was forward or backward.
That’s because the 10-member panel — approved by voters in 2014 and tasked with creating a bipartisan solution to gerrymandered days of yore — said they could not come to an agreement. So the Democratic commissioners released one set of maps, and Republicans proposed another.
It’s just the first step, and doesn’t mean they won’t reach across the aisle in the near future, but deadlocked preliminary discussions along party lines don’t offer much reassurance. And if they don’t agree on something lawmakers can approve, the Democratic supermajorities in the Legislature get to take over — the very thing the commission was supposed to avoid in the first place.
That’s a big possibility because neither sets of maps seem likely to satisfy most incumbent state or federal lawmakers, our Bill Mahoney reports. For example, even the Democratic commissioners’ proposal for congressional districts — thought to be a place the party could try to pick up some House seats — appears to create a difficult situation for Democrats to increase their upstate delegation.
The commission is holding 14 (!) public hearings in October and November, and certainly there are plenty of thoughts to be shared if it is down for constructive criticism. Like this initial reaction to Bill from a Democratic insider about the maps: “They don’t seem to be grounded in reality. There just seems to be weird stuff.”
IT’S THURSDAY. Got tips, suggestions or thoughts? Let us know ... By email: [email protected] and [email protected], or on Twitter: @erinmdurkin and @annagronewold
WHERE’S KATHY? No public schedule by press time.
WHERE’S BILL? Holding a media availability and crushing some illegal dirt bikes and ATVs with the NYPD and Sanitation Department.
De Blasio rebuffs calls to release Rikers inmates amid jail crisis, by POLITICO’s Erin Durkin: Mayor Bill de Blasio rejected calls on Wednesday to use his authority to release inmates from Rikers Island, where detainees and workers have been subjected to dire conditions. “That’s not our focus right now,” de Blasio said when asked if he would act to release about 250 people serving city jail sentences of less than a year, who the city has the power to let out under a work-release program. De Blasio said he does support moving prisoners out of Rikers — but only categories of inmates the city has no power to release on its own. Instead, he is putting the onus on Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state court system.
— Nearly two dozen city correction officers were slapped with suspensions Wednesday for not showing up for work. On Tuesday, almost 1,800 of the more than 8,300 Rikers workers took sick days.
— “COVID Is Surging Back Into Rikers and NYC Jails,” by WNYC’s George Joseph: “At a city council hearing on Wednesday, correctional medical officials sounded the alarm about an uptick in coronavirus infections at New York City jails including Rikers Island, noting that many more tests are coming back positive at these facilities relative to the city overall.”
— Republican mayoral nominee Curtis Sliwa called for Hochul to seize control of Rikers from the city.
— EXPLAINER: “10 Deaths, Exhausted Guards, Rampant Violence: Why Rikers Is in Crisis,” by The New York Times’ Jonah E. Bromwich and Jan Ransom
“Union hits de Blasio on back-to-work push, gets temporary win in COVID vaccine fight,” by New York Daily News’ Michael Gartland: “New York City’s largest municipal labor union launched a full-court press on Wednesday against Mayor de Blasio’s order to return to work, a day after a state Supreme Court granted it and other unions a temporary restraining order on the implementation of city vaccine mandates. Henry Garrido, the executive director of DC 37, announced Wednesday that the union filed an ‘improper practice petition’ with the city’s Office of Collective Bargaining over de Blasio’s requirement that all city employees return to their offices after working remotely for months — or face the possibility of punishment.”
— OP-ED: “Bill de Blasio Is Forcing Me to Choose Between My Family and My Career”
“COVID-19 cluster linked to NYC’s ‘Electric Zoo’ music festival,” by New York Post’s Kenneth Garger: “A COVID-19 cluster of more than a dozen cases has been linked to the Electric Zoo music festival on Randall’s Island earlier this month, city health officials said Wednesday. Sixteen people so far are part of the cluster, the city Health Department — and eight other people who attended the Labor Day Weekend dance party may have been contagious at the time. ‘Anyone who attended this festival should get tested immediately, regardless of whether or not they have been vaccinated,’ Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said in a statement.”
“NYC Is Notoriously Bad With Tech. Can The Next Mayor Change That?” by Gothamist’s Elizabeth Kim: “The pandemic has challenged the technological capacity of local and state governments across the country, but perhaps no more so than in New York City, where many of its nine million residents have been forced to rely on government technology amid an unprecedented rollout of public services. The latest test came this week, when hundreds of thousands of public school students returned to classrooms. In the lead-up to the momentous day, Mayor Bill de Blasio and other city officials repeatedly assured families that every potential safety concern and logistical challenge had been addressed. But at around 7:30 a.m., families discovered that the crucial health screening which all students are required to fill out before entering school was not working.”
“Can the Pandemic Give Commercial Rent Control a New Lease on Life?” by the City’s Greg David: “Amott is part of a group of small business owners mobilizing to win passage of a commercial rent regulation bill introduced by Councilmember Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn). With less than four months to go in office, Levin has called for a hearing Friday on his proposal to establish rent regulation for some commercial spaces in the city. Supporters’ argument is anchored in the pandemic economic plunge that has crippled the city’s economy. While rents have dropped and many storefronts are vacant, they say, a recovery will bring soaring rents — again making it impossible for the city’s small business to survive. “Rent regulation was important before COVID and it’s even more important today for a just recovery,” Levin said. “As we come out of the pandemic — and we will — we don’t want to go back to a time when rents can rise 100% or 300% when a lease expires.”
“Capitol Region Districts Contend with Staff Who Oppose Vaccine Mandate,” by Times Union’s Rachel Silbestein: “Capital Region districts are contending with a small minority of employees who say they are so distrustful of the COVID-19 shot, they would be willing to give up their jobs. New York’s vaccine mandate for educators has built-in flexibility; school employees may opt-out and submit to weekly COVDI-19 testing instead, according to guidance from the state Department of Health. But growing opposition to COVID-19 mandates any kind has put school administrators in a difficult spot, including at Queensbury Union Free School District, which on Wednesday began testing unvaccinated employees.”
“Gov. Hochul mandates masks in N.Y. childcare centers amid concern kids could spread COVID,” by Daily News’s Chris Sommerfeldt: “Daycare and afterschool facilities across New York must require staff, visitors and children to wear face masks indoors, Gov. Hochul announced Wednesday amid concern that kids too young to get vaccinated could exacerbate the state’s spike in COVID-19 infections. The new mandate, which applies to anyone older than 2 who’s ‘medically able’ to wear a mask, covers all childcare providers registered or licensed by the state’s Office of Family Services, Hochul said in a briefing at the State Capitol in Albany. Since coronavirus vaccines are currently only authorized for people older than 12, Hochul said masks remain the ‘best line of defense’ in childcare settings. ‘This new mask requirement ensures that children in our child care facilities receive the same protection as children in our schools,’ said Hochul, who has also mandated masks in schools statewide.”
MORE FROM HOCHUL:
— On a religious exemption for the health care workers vaccine mandate: “I’m not aware of a sanctioned religious exemption from any organized religion, in fact they are encouraging the opposite. Everybody from the pope on down is encouraging people to get vaccinated.”
— Responding to criticism about her appointments — including Cuomo alum James Derring — to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics: “What happened yesterday was as a result of two resignations. In order for there to be any business going forward, I had to appoint somebody. I had to find an individual, an individual who is highly recommended, who has credentials, but literally is unknown to me.”
— On her plans for JCOPE: "What I'm going to do is turn it upside down and to challenge the premise that an entity that is created by elected officials by their own appointees should be charged with investigating those individuals.”
“Call in the National Guard? NY school bus driver shortage spurs call for action,” by USA Today Network’s Jon Campbell: “The COVID-19 pandemic didn't cause the bus driver shortage that has vexed school districts across New York and the nation. The virus just kicked it into high gear. In every corner of the state, district leaders and bus companies have been scrambling to find ways to transport more than 2 million students to and from school and extracurricular activities each day, frantically trying to recruit and train new drivers while existing drivers pick up extra routes and longer days. The current number of school bus drivers in New York is 15 to 20% below full staffing levels, according to separate estimates from a pair of statewide trade groups representing the school bus industry, the Association for Pupil Transportation and the School Bus Contractors Association.”
#UpstateAmerica: Grand Island residents are incensed after a mural was painted over.
FOLIAGE REPORT: Week 2 is up. Get outside and peep that goldenrod, maize, saffron, ginger, scarlet, cranberry and raspberry.
“Biden admin agrees to cover NYC public hospitals’ $1B COVID tab after months of delay,” by New York Daily News’ Chris Sommerfeldt and Tim Balk: “The city’s public hospital system is on track to get a nearly $1 billion shot in the arm to cover its heroic COVID crisis work — but only after the feds tried for months to skimp on the bill, a pair of New York lawmakers said Wednesday. The Biden administration agreed to boost its reimbursement from about $260 million, succumbing to months of political pressure, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.).”
— “De Blasio Outlines Spending Plan for $5.9 Billion in Direct Federal Pandemic Aid,” by Gotham Gazette’s Ethan Geringer-Samet
— Inside New York’s market for fake vaccination cards.
— The city is launching a green jobs program for 1,500 young people from neighborhoods with high rates of gun violence.
— A Manhattan parking garage converted into a public electric vehicle fast-charging hub is set to open in the coming weeks.
— Capital Region coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are back to February levels.
— Hochul said a major expansion of the High Line is still happening.
— Erie County is considering its options after a court struck down a local law aimed at holding nursing homes more accountable for patient injuries.
— A man was shot in the leg when he tried to fight off armed robbers while dining outside in a Manhattan restaurant.
— The U.S. Department of Justice is charging an Albany couple with Social Security fraud.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Jason Zengerle of the NYT Magazine … NBC’s Richard Engel … CNN’s Angelica Grimaldi and Hannah Sarisohn … Tamron Hall … Andy Serwer … WaPo’s Molly Hensley-Clancy … Melissa Lafsky … Luke Hornblower … Tristan White
MEDIAWATCH — DEEP DIVE: "Breaking Right: The Wall Street Journal’s stubborn conservatism," by Adam Piore in Columbia Journalism Review’s fall issue
— "The New Yorker Archivist Erin Overbey on Her Byline-Diversity Project," by NY mag’s Choire Sicha
— Paul Volpe is returning to The New York Times, where “a new cross-functional team will help the company’s leadership establish a vision for how our report can continue to evolve to convey our values and ensure accuracy,” according to an announcement. He most recently was executive editor and senior editor for emerging products at POLITICO. Edmund Lee and Susanna Timmons are also joining that new team.
“New York Renters Face 70% Increases as Pandemic Discounts Expire,” by Bloomberg’s Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou and Claire Ballentine: “The pandemic-era rental market in Manhattan gave people the chance of a lifetime to move into the apartment of their dreams. Ten months is all they got. Landlords are jacking up rents — often by 50, 60 or 70% — on tenants who locked in deals last year when prices were in freefall. Some renters are being forced to move at a time when the market is roaring back to nearly pre-pandemic levels. And concessions are slipping away. Andy Kalmowitz didn’t think twice in November before signing a 10-month lease on a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in the desirable East Village neighborhood for $2,100 a month. When it was time to renew, his landlord asked for $3,500, a 67% increase.”
“Federal judge dismisses last of five landlord lawsuits seeking to overturn New York’s 2019 rent laws,” by New York Daily News’ Molly Crane-Newman: “In a win for more than one million New York City renters, a federal judge dismissed the final two of five landlord-brought lawsuits seeking to undo sweeping rent reforms passed by the state Legislature in 2019. In a 91-page decision, White Plains Federal Court Judge Kenneth Karas found the landlords had failed to prove the renter protection laws violated their constitutional rights.”
“New Analysis Details Just How Late and Over-Budget City Infrastructure Projects Run,” by Gotham Gazette’s Samar Khurshid: “New York City’s capital budget for building and maintaining essential infrastructure is dense, complicated, and opaque, making it difficult to examine how the city spends its funds and on what projects. It is well known, though, that the city’s capital budget process has been notoriously inefficient and rife with cost overruns and delays, leading to many questions about how the city is spending tens of billions of dollars on essential infrastructure maintenance, upgrades, and development. Now, a new independent portal created by civic technologists is attempting to provide more clarity into that immense spending program, with a snapshot that shows just how inefficient capital spending can be and how thousands of projects are delayed or over budget.”