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POLITICO New York Playbook, presented by Middle Class Strong: DE BLASIO's school-closing shift -- CARRIE MELAGO promoted -- AP's top theater picks

12/15/2015 07:30 AM EDT

By Azi Paybarah in Manhattan, Jimmy Vielkind in Albany, and Mike Allen in D.C., with Daniel Lippman

IN SHIFT, DE BLASIO MOVES TO CLOSE THREE STRUGGLING SCHOOLS -- POLITICO New York's Eliza Shapiro: Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration is planning to close three struggling schools at the end of this academic year, a surprise move after the mayor initially announced last year that low-performing schools would only be closed after three years of attempted interventions. The three closures - at Peace Academy Middle School, School for the Urban Environment and Foundations Academy High School, all in Brooklyn - will affect 212 students and 24 teachers.

They will be the first district school closures of de Blasio's tenure. A spokeswoman for the Department of Education announced the intended closures on Monday, just over a year after de Blasio announced his Renewal program to improve low-performing schools. In November of last year, de Blasio sharply criticized former mayor Michael Bloomberg for closing schools 'casually.'

CUOMO'S FREQUENT GUESTS HAVE MOVED ON - POLITICO New York's Bill Mahoney: A common tie connects a large number of the executive chamber staff members who met most frequently with Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his first 56 months in office. They no longer work there. Of the 20 staffers whose names appear the most often on the governor's schedules between February 2011 and August 2015, only six still work for him, according to a POLITICO New York analysis. Each of the three staffers who participated in the most meetings or events with the governor since he took office - secretary Larry Schwartz (1,458), top aide Joe Percoco (1,216), and former communications director and chief of staff Josh Vlasto (1,198) - have either left his administration or will be gone by next month.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I respect Star Wars' place in the American cultural firmament, but it's never quite been my thing." -- Mayor Bill de Blasio, to reporters Monday, at an unrelated press conference.

PROMOTED: Carrie Melago the news editor for WSJ's Greater New York Section, has been promoted to WSJ's training editor. In a memo to staff yesterday, NY bureau chief Bob Rose wrote: "Anyone who knows Carrie also knows that she is perfectly suited for this role, and will do a great job overseeing everything from orientation to digital training for the global Journal. Since we can't clone her, it also means that GNY will be losing one of its finest editors and a wonderful colleague." Malaga will report to deputy managing editor Christine Glancey when the move takes place some "some time after the first of the year," Rose wrote. The paper is currently searching for her successor as news editor. -- Azi Paybarah

TABS -- Post: "SLEAZY RIDER: Subway sex crimes skyrocket" -- News: "FORGIVE U.S. FATHER" -- amNY: "TO HAIL AND BACK" -- Hamodia: "Ramapo Yeshivos in Shock at Monitor's Call for Veto Power" -- El Diario [translated]: Legal aid for immigrants

FRONT PAGES -- NYT, 3-col. below the fold: "Muslim Youth in U.S. Feel Strain of Suspicion" -- WSJNY, 2-col. above the fold: "Call for Monitor With Veto Power in School District"

NEW YORK MAGAZINE'S REASONS TO LOVE NEW YORK 2015 - "Because Sheldon Silver is finally a felon."

PHOTO OF THE DAY: The Empire State Plaza from above.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Former Attorney General Oliver Koppell.

SPOTTED: Academy Award winning actress Julianne Moore, along with son and daughter, marching in Central Park with over 1000 supporters of Moms Demand Action Orange March to end gun violence.

** A message from Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York: A safe work environment should not be a privilege; it should be a right. Middle Class Strong is focused on building, protecting, and maintaining a strong middle class for union and non-union workers alike. It is time for working people to be given the respect, dignity, and protections they deserve. Visit **

HAPPENING TODAY - "Bernie Sanders to Speak at Immigration Conference in Downtown Brooklyn," by DNAinfo's Alexandra Leon : "Bernie Sanders has joined the other Democratic presidential candidates in addressing this year's National Immigrant Integration Conference, which wraps up Tuesday at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott. Sanders ... is scheduled to discuss his immigration policy [today] at 3 p.m. via video conference. The senator announced what he calls a 'fair and humane' immigration plan last month, saying he would use executive authority to protect immigrant families from deportation, regulate the future flow of immigrants into the country by modernizing the visa system and reverse the criminalization of immigrants."

--"Bernie Sanders Urges Cuomo to Raise CUNY Professors' Pay," by Times' Kate Taylor: "Roughly 25,000 CUNY faculty and professional staff members have been without a contract since 2010, and have not had salary increases in that time. ... Mr. Sanders ... on Friday sent a letter to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that called on him to provide funding for a new contract with raises. 'As a college degree becomes increasingly important for economic security in our vastly unequal society, CUNY has historically represented the possibility that a college education of the highest quality could be accessible to all,' the Vermont senator wrote. ... 'That is why I am troubled by New York State's refusal so far to invest in a fair contract for the university's faculty and staff.'"

CHANGING CITY -- "In New Era for Marijuana, New York Smokers Get Bolder," by Times' Sarah Maslin Nir : "It wafts down the pavement, an unmistakable odor more Haight-Ashbury than New York - the tang of marijuana smoke in the city's streets. If the smell (and the lightheadedness a passer-by may feel) is anything to judge by, lighting up and strolling around seems increasingly common in pockets of Brooklyn, on side streets in Manhattan and in other public spaces. Street smokers say they are emboldened by laws that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana in other parts of the country and by the relatively low-key comments by New York's leaders, including the police commissioner, about the drug.

Interviews with people who said they had smoked marijuana in public yielded a general sentiment that they felt much more secure doing so today than they would have not long ago."

WAKE-UP SCOOP -- STRINGER TO ANNOUNCE HE'LL VOTE FOR COAL DIVESTMENT -- POLITICO New York's Laura Nahmias and David Giambusso: City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who oversees the city's nearly $160 billion pension funds, will announce Tuesday that he intends to vote in favor of divest the city's pension funds from coal. "A pending resolution to divest from coal is now before us. And I can tell you that my vote will be to divest. It's not just the smart thing to do from a fiduciary point of view, it's the right thing - for our planet, for our children, and yes for our retirees," Stringer will say Tuesday during a speech to the Citizen's Budget Commission, according to a copy of his prepared remarks provided to POLITICO New York. Stringer's support for coal divestment follows mounting pressure from environmental groups like as well as recent announcements by Mayor Bill de Blasio and several council members urging the city's five pension boards to drop the carbon-intensive fuel source. Until now, Stringer has opted for a greater voice on the boards of companies - so-called proxy access - in which city pensions are invested, arguing it would give the city a greater voice in the direction of those companies.

DAYLIGHT -- Council breaks from de Blasio to defend Willets Point -- POLITICO New York's Sally Goldenberg: The New York City Council, which often sides with Mayor Bill de Blasio, is breaking ranks over a planned development at Willets Point in Queens. The Council plans to vote on Wednesday on a resolution that would authorize it to file an amicus brief defending the plans, which were initially approved by the Council, as land-use applications must be.The amicus brief itself has yet to be written, and the resolution gives the Council six months to file it in court, but the legislative body will side with the developer in arguing that a mall should be built on existing parkland outside Citi Field. The Queens Development Group, a partnership of the Related Companies and Sterling Equities, is appealing a decision from earlier this year that would have banned the construction of the mall. The state Court of Appeals last month decided to consider the developer's case.

Yet the de Blasio administration, in a surprise move, walked away from the case and decided to let the developer fight it alone. In an interview with POLITICO New York in August, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen said she believed she could secure a better deal with regard to affordable housing. The initial deal was struck under the Bloomberg administration.

REGENTS PUT HOLD ON TEST SCORES IN TEACHER EVALS - POLITICO New York's Keshia Clukey: The state Board of Regents approved emergency regulations Monday to put the use of student test scores in teacher and principal evaluations on hold through the 2019-2020 school year - effectively precluding the need for legislation and capping uncertainty about what the board could do. Teachers and principals will still be held accountable using observation as well as locally developed and state-approved exam measures. The scores will not be used in calculating student performance but will still be used in school accountability ratings, determining if they are in good academic standing or if action needs to be taken. The plan to decouple the evaluations is part of the state's apparent move away from the Common Core standards, and was recommended by the task force Cuomo convened to review the standards.

-- Read more about the regulation changes here:

-- The team charged with monitoring Rockland County's troubled East Ramapo schools presented a series of recommendations on Monday, including the need for veto power over the school board and up to $15 million to reinsert programs that had been slashed.

BHARARA PUTS ALBANY ON NOTICE - Buffalo News' Tom Precious: "U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, fresh from the convictions of the State Legislature's former top two leaders, says officials in a position of improving Albany's corruption woes have a 'moment to reflect' and come up with changes to address lapses in ethics and other laws. But Bharara on Monday said he is concerned that he has been hearing 'a little bit more whispered whining on the part of some legislators in the press, without attribution, than focus on how to solve the problem' facing Albany. The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, interviewed Monday morning on WNYC Radio in New York, did not embrace any specific reforms, but said a number of ideas must be considered, including limits on legislators' outside income."

-- Bharara declined to absolve Cuomo of anything.

JUDGES GET PAY HIKE - Daily News' Glenn Blain: "State judges got an early Christmas gift Monday when a pay panel recommended they get hefty salary increases starting next year. The state Commission on Legislative, Judicial, & Executive Compensation narrowly approved a set of recommended pay raises that would boost salaries for Supreme Court judges from $174,000 a year to nearly $193,000 on April 1. Pay for state judges would then be matched to those of federal district judges with likely salaries of about $207,000 by 2018, depending on cost of living adjustments."

FIRST LOOK - Michael Bloomberg-backed group Everytown for Gun Safety has a terror gap ad titled "America" that they're running tonight in the DC market during the presidential debate.

EAT BEAT -- "Estela Duo to Open Branch at Met Breuer," by Times' Jeff Gordinier: "The grande dame of Manhattan museums has decided to import a dash of downtown cool. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has signed a contract with the chef Ignacio Mattos and the restaurateur Thomas Carter, the men behind Estela on East Houston Street, to create an Upper East Side version of the restaurant at the Met Breuer, a new stand-alone outpost of the museum that will be devoted to 20th- and 21st-century work. The Met Breuer is set to open in March, but the restaurant, which may be called Estela Breuer (the name is still not finalized), could open early in the summer."

BROADWAY BUZZ -- "The AP picks its top theater of 2015," by AP's Mark Kennedy: "1. 'Hamilton' ... 2. 'Fun Home' ... 3. 'An American in Paris' ... 4. 'King Charles III' ... 5. 'The King and I' ... 6. 'Constellations' ... 7. 'A View From the Bridge' ... 8. 'Something Rotten!' ... 9. 'Skylight' ... 10. 'Spring Awakening'."

SUBWAY CRIME -- Post's Danielle Furfaro and Frank Rosario: "In the past five months alone, the rate of increase has more than doubled - with a total of 699 incidents reported, or 106 more than the 593 recorded for the same period last year, authorities said. The most common offenses are forcible touching, lewdness and unwanted surveillance, NYPD Deputy Chief Vincent Coogan told MTA officials at a meeting. Coogan said the rising number of complaints stems partly from riders getting more serious about inappropriate behavior and reporting it."

THE POST'S HOMELESS SHAMING BEAT -- "Homeless squatters are taking over LaGuardia Airport," by Post's Danielle Furfaro, Philip Messing and Georgett Roberts: "The number of derelicts living at the airport has increased dramatically in the past year, turning the main terminal into the city's most popular de facto flophouse, where they sleep, eat and wash up while competing for space with passengers ... At least 50 homeless people live inside the airport's Terminal B, which anyone can get into without passing through security ... On one night last week, men and women were sacked out on cardboard that they had spread out over warm vents on the floor."

MEDIA MORNING -- "Roy Sekoff to leave Huffington Post," by Politico's Sterne: "The Huffington Post's founding editor, Roy Sekoff, is leaving the organization ... Sekoff, who also was the co-creator of HuffPost Live, is currently the president and chief creative officer of the company's video division, HuffPost Studios. In [Arianna's] email to staff ... Huffington wrote that Sekoff decided to leave the company due to the stress of constant cross-country travel."

-- "Fox Business ending year with strong ratings," by Talking Biz News' Chris Roush: "During the business day, the eight-year-old channel has seen a 56 percent increase in viewers to 95,000 for the second half of the year ... And its viewers in the key 25- to 54-year-old demographic rose 60 percent to 16,000 viewers."

--"Howard Stern Quit SiriusXM? Not for a 'Loser' Podcast," by Bloomberg's Felix Gillette: Tomorrow morning "Stern will host his final show under a five-year contract with SiriusXM. What he will do next remains a mystery. He could walk away from the medium, as he once did from broadcast, to try his hand at, say, Internet radio. Or he could retire. Or he could sign a new contract with SiriusXM.... Stern suggested he's open to almost any scenario-except podcasting. 'If you want to be in radio, forget a podcast,' Stern [said] ... 'Podcasts are for losers.'"

TRANSITIONS -- "Answer the Call announces new leadership roles": "Answer the Call - The New York Police & Fire Widows' & Children's Benefit Fund, [has] announced new leadership roles for three members of the Board of Directors - President and Vice Chairmen. Board President Kevin Parker, CEO of Sustainable Insight Capital Management, has decided to step down from his position as President of the organization. ... Board Member Philip V. Moyles, Jr., Managing Principal & CEO of Vanbridge LLC, has been named the new President of the Board of Directors. Mr. Moyles ... has served on the Board since May 2007 and is also a member of the Board's Executive Committee. In this new position, Mr. Moyles will oversee the day to day operations of the Benefit Fund and further the Benefit Fund's mission to support the families of New York City's fallen first responders.

"In addition, Board Member Lawrence M.v.D. Schloss has been named Vice Chairman of the Board. Prior to his new role, Mr. Schloss served on the Board for over twenty years and is also a member of the Board's Executive Committee. He is currently President of Angelo, Gordon & Co., and is a former New York City Deputy Comptroller for Asset Management."

FUNNY HOW TRUMP'S DOCTOR sounds like Trump -- "Trump's doctor: Trump would be the healthiest president ever," by Politico's Nick Gass: "In a Dec. 4 note shared by the Trump campaign, Dr. Harold Bornstein, the 69-year-old candidate's doctor since 1980, wrote that the candidate's latest physical exam showed only 'positive results.' 'If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual elected to the presidency,' Bornstein wrote. At 70 years old by Election Day, Trump would be the oldest candidate elected for a first term in U.S. history.

"'Mr. Trump has suffered no form of cancer, has never had a hip, knee or shoulder replacement or any other orthopedic surgery ... His cardiovascular status is excellent. He has no history of ever using alcohol or tobacco products.' Trump has lost at least 15 pounds in the last year, Bornstein wrote ... [and] his blood pressure and lab results were 'astonishingly excellent.' ... [Trump said:] 'I am fortunate to have been blessed with great genes - both of my parents had very long and productive lives ... People have been impressed by my stamina, but to me it has been easy because I am truly doing something that I love." ... The doctor's letter

PIC DU JOUR -- @blakehounshell: "Here is the highly respected Harold Boorstein, M.D. Very classy, terrific doctor."

--@lenoxhill: "Dr. Bornstein is speaking on behalf of his patient and his views and opinions are his own."

REAL ESTATE -- WILLETS WOES-"Council, breaking from de Blasio, to defend Willets Point," by POLITICO New York's Sally Goldenberg: "The New York City Council, which often sides with Mayor Bill de Blasio, is breaking ranks over a planned development at Willets Point in Queens. The Council plans to vote on Wednesday on a resolution that would authorize it to file an amicus brief defending the plans, which were initially approved by the Council, as land-use applications must be. The amicus brief itself has yet to be written, and the resolution gives the Council six months to file it in court, but the legislative body will side with the developer in arguing that a mall should be built on existing parkland outside Citi Field. The Queens Development Group, a partnership of the Related Companies and Sterling Equities, is appealing a decision from earlier this year that would have banned the construction of the mall. The state Court of Appeals last month decided to consider the developer's case. Yet the de Blasio administration, in a surprise move, walked away from the case and decided to let the developer fight it alone."

HITTING THE GAS-"Cuomo Considers Reset for Long-Delayed Penn Station Expansion," by Times' Charles V. Bagli: "Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is considering a bold move to restart the long-stalled plan to transform Midtown Manhattan's blocklong general post office into a $900 million transit and commercial hub for Pennsylvania Station: jettisoning the developers, Related Companies and Vornado Realty. The developers, selected for the project known as Moynihan Station in 2005, tried twice to move Madison Square Garden into the James A. Farley Post Office. They also failed in attempts to lure a community college and CBS to the post office, which is across Eighth Avenue from the Garden and Penn Station."

HOUSING RALLY-"Housing activists pressure de Blasio for changes to plan," by POLITICO New York's Sally Goldenberg: "Activists who have long been critical of Mayor Bill de Blasio's housing plans are planing a City Hall rally Tuesday after failing to persuade the administration to alter key tenets of the proposal related to affordability levels. Jonathan Westin of the organizing group New York Communities for Change, which is often aligned with the mayor on various issues, said he's had several meetings in recent months with top administration officials over the plans, but his demands were not met. He and others are preparing to hold a demonstration at 9:30 a.m. on the steps of City Hall. ... Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for de Blasio, said the administration has never negotiated the terms of its policies with Westin and only intends to hash out the particulars with the City Council, which must cast a binding vote on the plans in early 2016. 'Absolutely not,' Norvell said, when asked whether negotiations took place. He did not dispute that meetings on the subject happened."

--"Tina Fey Becomes Target of Natural History Museum Expansion Protesters," by DNAinfo's Emily Frost: "Opponents of the American Museum of Natural History's expansion plan intend to protest at the opening of Tina Fey's new movie 'Sisters' Friday with the hope of persuading the comedienne to use her star power to stop the development. Fey, who lives on the Upper West Side, serves as a trustee on the museum's board, which approved the initial design plans for the new $325 million Gilder Center in early November. The Gilder Center will add new exhibition halls and classrooms to the American Museum of Natural History campus. The new building would require some loss of space and trees in the surrounding Theodore Roosevelt Park, a major sticking point for nearby residents who use the public green space." ... "Sisters" trailer

--"Live like Anne Hathaway - for less!" by Post's Zachary Kussin: "The roomy 7,750-square-foot Midtown duplex - which now-pregnant starlet Anne Hathaway once rented with her ex-squeeze, convicted financial fraudster Raffaello Follieri - has undergone a price chop ... Originally asking a cool $70,000-per-month rent, a deep-pocketed transient-type house hunter can now nab the digs for a mere $59,500 monthly. ... Perched on the 46th and 47th floors of the Olympic Tower - located at 641 Fifth Ave. - this five-bedroom, 6 ½-bathroom unit looks out to 360 degrees with views of the river, Central Park, the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center. There's a 41-foot-wide corner living room with a wet bar, a media room, an eat-in chef's kitchen with stainless-steel appliances and - just a bit of a walk away - a formal dining room with seating for 12. Each bedroom comes equipped with high ceilings, nice closet space and en suite bathrooms." With pix

THE HOME TEAMS -- POLITICO New York's Howard Megdal: Giants 31, Dolphins 24: The Giants grab a desperately needed win to tie Philadelphia and Washington for first place in the NFC East. Never mind that it is with a 6-7 record. What turned out to be the game-winning touchdown was an 84-yard TD pass from Eli Manning to Odell Beckham Jr. Manning was 27-for-31, an 87% completion percentage, a Giants record, better than anything Y.A. Tittle, Phil Simms or Tommy Maddox ever accomplished.

-- Magic 105, Nets 82: Even Star Wars Night at Barclays couldn't make this one entertaining.

-- The day ahead: the Oilers come to The Garden. The Panthers head to Barclays. The Devils are in Buffalo.

#UpstateAmerica: It's so warm in Buffalo that Santa was able to spend Sunday waterskiing on the Niagara River.

** A message from Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York: As part of our efforts to build a strong middle class, one of our initial goals is to make New York City construction sites safer for all workers. This is merely a first step, but it is a critical one in our ongoing efforts to protect working people.

Unions prioritize safety by requiring rigorous training programs. However, not all construction sites are union, and working conditions at many sites across the city are deplorable. So it comes as no surprise that in 2015, 14 of 16 construction related deaths occurred on non-union construction sites.

We believe the safety standards that unions abide by should be uniformly implemented across the city. Moving forward, we will work to educate the public and elected officials about why working people need true middle class wages and benefits to live and thrive in New York City. Visit . **

FOR MORE political and policy news from New York, check out Politico New York's home page:

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