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By now, we all know the governor’s race is a little too close for comfort for Gov. Kathy Hochul. In fact, she’s struggling in what should be a reliable Democratic stronghold: New York City.
It’s not that anyone thinks Republican Lee Zeldin will win the city outright, or come anywhere close. Hochul will certainly come out ahead. But to win statewide, she needs to run up the numbers in the five boroughs with both a big margin of victory and healthy turnout, and that part has started looking a little dicier.
Now Democrats are scrambling to shore up Hochul’s ground game in the city, fearful that she won’t capture enough of the city vote to overcome Zeldin’s growing popularity in the suburbs and upstate, our Sally Goldenberg and Joseph Spector report.
Hochul started out at a bit of a disadvantage here: She’s from Buffalo and was little known in the city before her surprise ascension to the governorship when Andrew Cuomo resigned last year. And her campaign, late to realize that Zeldin posed a serious threat, has struck some supporters as lackluster in its efforts to overcome that problem. There’s been little in the way of direct mail, get-out-the-vote efforts, street corner canvassing and high-profile appearances by well-known city politicians. “Democrats in New York City have forgotten how to run general elections, because we haven’t had to do it for 20 years,” Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said in an interview.
That’s all about to change at the 11th hour. Mayor Eric Adams plans to appear at a campaign rally with Hochul on Sunday in the Democratic stronghold of southeast Queens. Hillary Clinton will headline a women’s rally for her next week, City & State reports. The New York State United Teachers union and the American Federation of Teachers intend to fire up a $1 million ad blitz through the PAC Progress NYS. The AFL-CEO is planning 106,000 door knocks, 220,000 phone calls and 600,000 direct mail pieces to get out the vote.
But Republicans are mobilizing too, and generating some excitement in the small but relevant red pockets of the city — especially since those areas overlap with the city’s only competitive congressional race, which may help with turnout. “People see that it’s within reach and it’s really a motivating factor,” City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelii said.
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WHERE’S KATHY? Making the GOTV radio rounds and making an announcement in Far Rockaway commemorating the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Sandy.
WHERE’S ERIC? Appearing on WCBS880, PIX11, CBS News New York and Caribbean Power Jam Radio, making a climate- and education-related announcement and a social services announcement and delivering remarks at the Filipino flag raising ceremony.
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“Covid, Flu, RSV: Hospitalizations Rise as Wave of Viruses Hits New York,” by The New York Times’ Sharon Otterman: “Just in time for colder weather and with other respiratory viruses on the rise, the mix of Covid-19 variants is shifting again in New York City in potentially worrying ways. The Omicron variant that accounted for most infections through the summer, BA.5, is now giving way to a variant soup — a mixture of different Omicron subvariants, including BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, which are even more transmissible and better at dodging immunity. With most testing now done at home, it is hard to get a clear picture of the amount of virus circulating. The city’s official Covid case numbers have been holding steady for two months, at about 2,000 cases reported per day. But hospitalizations have again started to increase.”
“New York City Council backtracks on plans to fully end hybrid work,” by City & State’s Annie McDonough: “Following pushback from the staff union and ongoing discussions among managers, the New York City Council is walking back plans to bring all central staffers back to the office full-time, according to a council source. Council leadership planned to announce to central staffers Thursday morning that division directors and managers will still be required to come into the office five days a week, but lower level central staffers will be allowed to work on a hybrid schedule, spending at least three days in the office per week.”
“New York Fire Department to Be Led by Woman for First Time,” by The New York Times’ Chelsia Rose Marcius, Emma G. Fitzsimmons and Dana Rubinstein: “Mayor Eric Adams on Thursday named a woman to lead the New York City Fire Department for the first time in the agency’s 157-year history. Mr. Adams promoted Laura Kavanagh, the acting commissioner of the department for the last eight months, to the post of commissioner at a news conference at a fire station in Manhattan, surrounded by a large group of top women leaders in his administration. Mr. Adams said that his deputy mayor, Philip Banks III, had conducted a national search for a fire commissioner and interviewed several candidates.”
“NYC Council passes bills to fight rats: ‘They have begun to define us,’” by New York Daily News’ Tim Balk and Chris Sommerfeldt: “Rat’s all, folks. The New York City Council on Thursday passed four anti-rat bills, taking aim from multiple directions at the worsening vermin scourge menacing the five boroughs. The package, dubbed the Rat Action Plan, would set new pest management standards for all major private construction projects, require the city to establish new rat mitigation zones and mandate annual Health Department reports on the rodent plague.”
“Racial justice commission makes final push for trio of ballot questions,” by POLITICO’s Joe Anuta: A commission born out of 2020 racial justice protests is making a final push for three ballot measures requiring the city to recognize structural racism and more explicitly take racial equity into account when implementing policies and services. The Racial Justice Commission, created by former Mayor Bill de Blasio in his final year in office, has spent 18 months digesting public input, floating long-term proposals aimed at counteracting racism and formulating the three ballot measures that will greet New Yorkers on Election Day. Now, the commission is making a final informational push before voters hit the polls Nov. 8.
“Zeldin Campaign Investigated Over Charge of Coordinating With Super PACs,” by The New York Times’ Nicholas Fandos and Dana Rubinstein: “New York’s top elections watchdog is investigating whether the campaign of Representative Lee Zeldin, the Republican nominee for governor, violated state law by coordinating with a pair of super PACs supporting his candidacy, according to two people familiar with the inquiry. Michael L. Johnson, the chief enforcement counsel at the State Board of Elections, initiated the preliminary investigation following reporting by The Times Union of Albany and a formal complaint by the New York Democratic Party documenting individuals who may be working for both the super PACs and Mr. Zeldin’s campaign in a prohibited manner.”
— “Running Against Hochul, Lee Zeldin Finds Another Target: Alvin Bragg,” by The New York Times’ Jonah E. Bromwich: “Mr. Zeldin has made that pledge repeatedly throughout his campaign, turning a local prosecutor into the unlikely focal point of a race for the state’s highest office, which has tightened in recent weeks. He used a debate Tuesday night against his Democratic opponent, Gov. Kathy Hochul, to attack Mr. Bragg for what he said was a failure to do the job of district attorney. But there is little that suggests that Mr. Bragg’s approach to serious crime differs significantly from that of other city prosecutors, including his predecessor, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., and the Brooklyn District Attorney, Eric Gonzalez. Murders and shootings are down in Manhattan this year; though some other major crimes are up, including robbery, burglary and grand larceny, those trends are broadly in line with crime trends citywide.”
— Zeldin said he supports arming school safety agents with guns and bulletproof vests.
Biden finds a happy place ahead of Election Day: Upstate New York, by POLITICO’s Joseph Spector: With Democrats clinging to control of Congress, deeply blue New York isn’t the first place you’d expect to find President Joe Biden. But here we are: Biden made his second trip in 21 days to upstate New York when he visited Syracuse on Thursday afternoon, less than two weeks before the midterm elections. He touted Micron Inc.'s planned $100 billion computer chip manufacturing facility just three weeks after touring IBM’s sprawling Poughkeepsie campus to herald its own pledged $20 billion expansion — two projects spurred by federal and state investments. And the presidential pomp could not come at a better time for Democrats in New York — where a slate of tight races could decide control of the House and Gov. Kathy Hochul faces a closer-than-expected challenge from GOP foe Lee Zeldin.
“Teachers and police restrained thousands of students in 22 New York districts,” by Times Union’s Emilie Munson and Ying Zhao: “Across New York, thousands of students, most often children with disabilities, have been physically restrained by staff members in K-12 schools in recent years. The practices can cause trauma, injuries and, in rare cases, death.The interventions — performed by a variety of school employees, including teachers, aides, administrators and other staff members — are meant to be used in emergency situations to keep students from hurting themselves or others. But a year-long Times Union investigation found that in some New York school districts, students were physically restrained hundreds of times per year. Educators restrained some students multiple times a day or week, in holds lasting up to two and a half hours, school records indicate.”
— “Some New York schools confine students in ‘time out rooms’ for hours."
#UpstateAmercia: Laugh or cry, Albanians, there will be no Holiday Lights in the Park this year.
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His August victory gave Democrats hope. Now this congressman needs to win again, by POLITICO’s Joseph Spector: In late August, Democrat Pat Ryan pulled off a special election win that revved up the party’s base with his focus on one key issue: abortion rights. If the fall of Roe v. Wade could propel Ryan to victory in New York’s Hudson Valley, in exactly the sort of suburban House district that will decide control of the chamber, then it could do the same for Democrats all over the nation come November. Or so the thinking went. Now Ryan has to win again, in a new district — and he’s putting that strategy to the test. “Our message has not changed,” Ryan said in an interview. “The intensity is only stronger, and I think we are going to see another rejection of this whole ‘red wave’ idea that’s out there that we certainly dispelled in our race.”
“How a G.O.P. Star Is Trying to Push Left-Leaning New York Toward Trump,” by The New York Times’ Jesse McKinley: “Ms. Stefanik, the chair of the House Republican Conference, is at the forefront of a push for her party to regain control of Congress, and she believes that New York — perennially a Democratic state — can lead the way. She predicts that Republicans will win 15 of the state’s 26 House seats, which would be a Republican record for New York. And her efforts in New York — appearing at fund-raisers and news conferences across the state — are predicated on a message that New York’s Rockefeller-era Republicanism, with moderate positions on social issues girded by fiscal and budgetary austerity, is over.”
“Ex-Trump Advisor Concealed His Motives, Prosecutors Say,” by The New York Times’ Rebecca Davis O’Brien: “Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a friend of former President Donald J. Trump standing trial on charges of acting as an undisclosed foreign agent, has sought to portray himself as a voice of reason: a businessman managing big egos, upstart young leaders and political neophytes jockeying for influence in the Trump campaign and in the Middle East. On Thursday, federal prosecutors tried to undermine that image woven over nearly four days of testimony. What Mr. Barrack had presented to the jury as mediation, behind-the-scenes management of ‘palace intrigue’ or mere ‘puffery’ were reframed, during the government’s cross-examination, as underhanded, opportunistic and deceptive.”
“Trump Org to AG: We don’t need no babysitter,” by Real Deal’s Joe Lovinger: “The Trump Organization has delivered a simple message to Attorney General Letitia James: Don’t touch my assets. The company asked a New York court Wednesday night to dismiss James’ request for a temporary receiver to oversee its statements to lenders and insurers. The Trump Organization also argued the court should reject James’ request for a temporary injunction to prevent asset transfers.”
“Trump Org. trial jury: 8 men, 4 women, and a few opinions,” by The Associated Press’s Michael R. Sisak: “It’s taken just three days to seat a jury of 12 people in the tax fraud trial of Donald Trump’s company — surprising even some people involved in the case who thought it would take at least a week to find an impartial panel in heavily Democratic New York City. Five of the jurors were sworn in Thursday, joining seven who were picked Tuesday. Six alternates still need to be seated. That process is beginning anew Thursday and Friday with a second pool of potential jurors, but lawyers say they’re on track for opening statements on Monday.”
— The state Gaming Commissionapproved a casino license for Churchill Downs in Central New York.
— Hochul is negotiating the pre-audit authority of the state comptroller’s office.
— Batman will co-lead the Cayuga County Board of Elections.
— A Brooklyn yeshiva that admitted to stealing government funds is accused in a new complaint of allowing students to swap mandated English courses for even more religious instruction in violation of state law.
— City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said the Council would consider taking legislative action to stop one of Mayor Adams’ aides from carrying a gun to work.
— A man with a fake gun hijacked an MTA bus in Queens and crashed it into a pole.
— Former cleaning staff at Montefiore Health filed a class action lawsuit charging they were not paid overtime.
— Two jails at Rikers Island lost heat just days after the city certified to a federal judge that all its heating systems were working.
— An economic snapshot from the city finds that many indicators are showing signs of growth.
— The NYPD issued a warning that extremist groups may target poll sites and political rallies as election day approaches.
— The city will ban physical letters for detainees at Rikers due to mail laced with fentanyl, instead scanning letters to let detainees read them digitally.
— The mayor’s management report says that only 1.5 percent of streets are filthy, but New Yorkers don’t buy it.
— Advocates with social safety net groups are expressing concerns about the presence of National Guard troops at shelters housing migrants.
— The city tore down a Manhattan restaurant’s expensive outdoor dining shed with no explanation.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Bill Gates … Doug Band … Commerce’s Jason Rodriguez … CNN’s Peter Morris and Margaret Given … Ogilvy’s David Ford … ABC’s Quinn Scanlan … Cyré Velez of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office … CBS’ Meghan Caravano…
MEDIAWATCH — A rogue employee hijacked the New York Post website and Twitter account with racist and profane content about New York politicians.
SPOTTED: Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) with Mera Rubell at the opening last night of the Rubell Museum in southwest D.C. -- pic by Ben Droz
“Vornado Had Outsize Role in Penn Station Development, Lawsuit Claims,” by Commercial Observer’s Celia Young: “A lawsuit is trying to throw the Pennsylvania Station megadevelopment off the rails. Community groups and tenants of a building that would be demolished under the project sued Empire State Development (ESD) on Wednesday, accusing ESD of breaking environmental regulations to push the renovation of Penn Station forward. The suit also claims ESD is allowing Vornado Realty Trust, the owner of much of the land slated for development, to improperly influence the redesign’s funding plan.”
“City Council Moves Forward With Gowanus Rezoning After Slashing Affordable Housing,” by New York Focus’s Sam Mellins and The City’s George Joseph: “On Tuesday, a key City Council committee approved a last-minute change to a proposed rezoning of a block in Gowanus, Brooklyn, that will slash new buildings’ maximum size to half of the original proposal, at the request of local Councilmember Shahana Hanif. The modified rezoning in the historically industry-heavy area will likely produce dozens fewer units, and fewer affordable units, than the initial plan approved by the local community board.”
“Spared By Sandy, Hunts Point Food Market Slow to Address Flood Risk,” by City Limits’ David Brand: “Each day, an army of laborers at the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center load tons of tuna, t-bones and tomatoes on and off 13,000 trucks destined for 42,000 restaurants, bodegas and supermarkets across New York City. A network of warehouses and refrigerated trailers store billions of pounds of produce and protein at the country’s largest centralized food hub over the course of the year.”Follow us on Twitter Erin Durkin @erinmdurkin Anna Gronewold @annagronewold
: Erin Durkin
Before joining POLITICO, Erin wrote for The Guardian and was a City Hall reporter for the New York Daily News, where she covered the de Blasio and Bloomberg administrations and the City Council. She also reported on urban development and local politics in Brooklyn.
A native of Boston, Erin graduated from Columbia University and lives in Harlem. Erin Durkin is a reporter for POLITICO New York and the co-author of New York Playbook.Before joining POLITICO, Erin wrote for The Guardian and was a City Hall reporter for the New York Daily News, where she covered the de Blasio and Bloomberg administrations and the City Council. She also reported on urban development and local politics in Brooklyn.A native of Boston, Erin graduated from Columbia University and lives in Harlem.
: Anna Gronewold Anna Gronewold is a POLITICO New York Playbook writer based in Albany. She has covered state government in New York, North Carolina and Nebraska for The Associated Press and previously reported on business and finance for Morning Consult in Washington, D.C. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications.
: Julian Shen-Berro
Julian Shen-Berro is an editorial intern at POLITICO.