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POLITICO New York Playbook: A DE BLASIO committee without de Blasio -- PHIFE DAWG tribute -- 'MASSIVE GLOWING BUNNIES'

03/24/2016 07:35 AM EDT

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

STATE BUDGET WAITS ON MINIMUM WAGE: The legislators running the budget subcommittee overseeing economic development took three minutes to do their business. They had $9 million to distribute - a pittance in the context of the nearly $150 billion budget lawmakers hope to adopt by next month - and little to say. A few minutes later, State Sen. Andrew Lanza explained why. "Quite frankly, the oxygen is being sucked out of the room by the minimum wage. It's the linchpin," the Republican from Staten Island, said. "We're sort of waiting on that."

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie offered some new details of what could be the minimum wage compromise. The ramp-up to $15 will be could take longer than the five years Cuomo proposed, and upstate areas might see a lower rate - perhaps $13, according to one lawmaker and at least one published report. Heastie, a Democrat insisted that nothing has been finalized. Cuomo was in Albany and met with both men in his Capitol office, but did not emerge over the course of the day.

It's unclear if a deal can come together this week. Cuomo is back at the Capitol today, but rank-and-file members of the Assembly and Senate have scattered for Purim and Easter, and budget bills have to be printed by midnight Monday to pass by March 31 without Cuomo waiving the required three-day waiting period through a message of necessity. Labor-backed progressives have already begun to question the split wage rate, and the Farm Bureau condemned a carve-out for agriculture. If Heastie was cautious, Flanagan - mindful that the political consequences of stalling a wage hike could come as early as April 19 - was optimistic. "We can get to compromise," he told reporters. "We've proven that we can come together on minimum wage and a wide variety of other things."

-- State Senate Democrats said they don't want to see the wage deal watered down.

-- CUNY Chancellor James Milliken outlined "three critical issues" for the as the state budget deadline nears. "First, the Governor has provided assurances that there will be no reductions to CUNY's budget and we are grateful for that commitment," he said in a statement Wednesday. "Second, with record enrollment, CUNY needs additional funding," he said, backing an Assembly proposal to increase funding in lieu of tuition hikes. Third, $330 million to help settle CUNY's long-expired labor agreements, above the $240 million proposed by Cuomo and the Legislature. "While we believe that the number required is higher, it is imperative that CUNY receive the investment agreed upon by the parties," he said.

DE BLASIO'S NATIONAL GROUP PERSISTS, WITH LESS DE BLASIO - POLITICO New York's Laura Nahmias: As Mayor Bill de Blasio prepares to shutter two well-funded nonprofits that were backing his local agenda, his national advocacy group is planning to persevere. The Progressive Agenda Committee - unveiled last May to help advance the mayor's national political agenda - was formally incorporated as a nonprofit last fall. De Blasio announced the committee at a press conference in Washington as part of a larger national tour to push for a 13-point list of priorities.

Unlike the Campaign for One New York, and United for Affordable NYC, two nonprofits that have pushed de Blasio's agenda at the local level and are going to be shut down in the near future, the Progressive Agenda has no plans to close. The nonprofit, like others the de Blasio administration had a hand in creating, was initially managed by people with ties to de Blasio's administration. But the Progressive Agenda has recently severed those ties, and will operate without the official involvement of those close mayoral allies. The Progressive Agenda, which de Blasio compared to the "Contract for America," has so far done little to directly influence the national political debate.

QUOTE OF DAY : "Justice will be best served if Mr. Liang is sentenced to five years of probation..." -- Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson. POLITICO New York:

PIC OF THE DAY: Screenshot of Bernie Sander's campaign encouraging supporters to post flyers on mailboxes, which, technically, is not permitted. SEE THE IMAGE:

EXECUTIVE MOVES -- Ryan Brack is joining the NYC office of Mercury Public Affairs as a senior vice president, working with a portfolio focusing on the tech sector. Previously, Brack worked for the New York City Mayor's Office of Tech and Innovation, Google in Silicon Valley. He also worked on technology issues as a member of the Bloomberg administration.

TABS -- Daily News: "'Cruz doesn't know what the hell he's talking about.' Bratton bashes Ted's Muslim Patrol" and "WHAT A COP-OUT: DA recommends NO JAIL time for Liang; Outraged family: He needs to go to prison" -- Post: "BLOOD BROTHERS: One bombed airport, sib hit subway" -- SEE THEM:

-- Newsday: "TOP PICK STEPS ASIDE" -- El Diario [translated]: We don't want tragedy

FRONT PAGES -- NYT, 4-col., above the fold: "Clinton Dismisses Rivals for 'Reckless Action' in Foreign Policy" -- WSJNY, 4-col., above the fold: "Probation Sought for Liang"

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Patrick McCarthy and Chapin Fay, both of Mercury, Dareh Gregorian, Daily News reporter extraordinaire, Marc Hermann, shutterbug, and Aaron Rutkoff, deputy managing editor for digital, at Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

OOPS?: "Cuomo said One World Trade Center would display the colors of the Belgian flag on its spire Tuesday night as a show of solidarity with the country after a spate of deadly attacks rocked its capital. But to many, the colors displayed resembled those of the French flag instead."

R.I.P. PHIFE DAWG -- "A Tribe Called Quest say they are 'devastated' by his death" -- BBC's Mark Savage: "The surviving members of A Tribe Called Quest say they are 'devastated' by the death of founder member Phife Dawg. In a statement released late on Wednesday night, the band called the rapper's contribution to music 'seismic and hard to measure'.

"Born Malik Taylor, the New Yorker died on Tuesday from complications resulting from diabetes. He was 45. Tributes have poured in from hip-hop contemporaries Chuck D and Nas, as well as Sean Lennon and Mark Ronson. Rapper Kendrick Lamar held an impromptu vigil for Phife Dawg on stage in Sydney, encouraging 18,000 fans to chant Phife's name for more than a minute. 'We're gonna give it up for him, for allowing me to do what I'm doing on this stage right here, right now, today,' said the star."

RABBIT SEASON -- "Massive Glowing Bunnies Coming to Battery Park City" -- DNAinfo's Irene Plagianos: "Seven giant, glowing bunnies will soon hop over to Brookfield Place. The massive rabbits, sewn from white nylon and internally lit, are the works of Australian artist Amanda Parer. In Parer's home country, rabbits are seen as serious pests - something like New York rats. Their population exploded in Australia after they were brought over by European colonists in 1788, and have apparently created problems in Australia's ecosystem. ... The bunnies will be on display from April 17 through April 30 at Brookfield Place, 230 Vesey St."

FAMILIAR REQUEST -- POLITICO New York's Gloria Pazmino: The city's three library chiefs renewed their push Wednesday for more funding to maintain libraries, keep providing essential services and help meet the city's student literacy goals. During a preliminary budget hearing at the City Council, New York Public Library president and CEO Tony Marx told lawmakers the library is now focused on expanding early literacy services for children and helping low-income New Yorkers access the internet and e-publications. Dennis Walcott, the former schools chancellor who now heads the Queens Library, and Brooklyn Public Library president and CEO Linda Johnson were also on hand to testify. The library chiefs are hoping for budget increases comparable to last year's, a major boost that let the libraries extend six-day service to more branches around the city.

MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL RELATIONSHIP -- Ted Cruz and Bill de Blasio can't stop fighting -- POLITICO New York's Dana Rubinstein: Senator and would-be Trump slayer Ted Cruz had a lot of things on his mind Wednesday morning in a speech before Manhattan Republicans: "radical Islamic terrorism," which he would vanquish; the IRS, which he would abolish; Obamacare, which he would repeal; and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, whom he just doesn't like. "You know, I've got to say, if Mayor de Blasio ever holds a press conference saying, 'I agree with Ted,' that will be the instant I hang it all up," said Cruz.

Cruz's de Blasio-bashing speech was a continuation of a spat the senator reignited Tuesday when he criticized the mayor for suspending a controversial Bloomberg-era Muslim surveillance program. Responding to that criticism, de Blasio on Tuesday said Cruz's "comments are not about safety and security. It's demagoguery."

-- WHY IT WORKS: The mutual animus extends back at least to January, when Cruz impugned Donald Trump's "New York values" during a GOP debate. That episode prompted de Blasio to declare himself "disgusted," and then raise money off the spat. ... Pitting himself against de Blasio, who is unpopular among New York Republicans, can't hurt. The crowd at the Women's National Republican Club seemed to dislike de Blasio as much as Cruz did. Manhattan Republican Party chair Adele Malpass publicly hoped for a one-term mayor in her introductory remarks. Cruz railing against de Blasio probably doesn't hurt the mayor either, since Cruz is not exactly popular with de Blasio's liberal base. "We understand why Ted Cruz is lashing out," said de Blasio spokeswoman Karen Hinton. "He's not going to be the Republican nominee. Life gets better, though, when you focus on helping people, not dividing them with eleventh-hour political rhetoric out of desperation."

-- BRATTON WARNS CRUZ about painting communities with a broad brush: On Wednesday, Cruz told Manhattan Republicans, "Look, it is that ostrich-head-in-your-sand political correctness that has made America so vulnerable." Later that day, Bratton told reporters, "With that type of that type of belief, and that painting of a broad brush, you got to be careful when you paint with a broad brush, because you tend to spill some of the paint back on yourself." The commissioner also said, "I've got better things to do than to think about Mr. Cruz." POLITICO New York's Azi Paybarah:

-- Washington Post: "Ted Cruz wants to nationalize an NYPD Muslim surveillance program that the NYPD says didn't work"

SKELOS LAWYER ASKS FOR COMMUNITY SERVICE - POLITICO New York's Josefa Velasquez : In a sentencing memorandum filed on Wednesday, lawyers for Dean Skelos argued that the former state Senate majority leader should be able to serve out his sentencing with multi-year community service rather than prison time. "Because the sentencing guidelines fail to account for Mr. Skelos' long history of public service and good work, and the unique nature of this case, we respectfully request that the court impose a sentence of probation with a multi-year community service," G. Robert Gage, a lawyer for Skelos, wrote. His lawyers are asking that Skelos perform 4,160 hours of community service, which "would impose a punishment that is onerous and humbling and yet, unlike prison, would provide substantial benefits the the community."

-- Adam Skelos, the former senator's son, asked to be sentenced to probation and a substance abuse program.

TRUMP IN BUFFALO - Time Warner Cable News' Ryan Whalen: "The feeling among many local politicians is it's just a matter of time until Donald Trump announces a campaign trip to Buffalo. Western New York's lead Trump supporter Carl Paladino said as much last week. While Paladino either doesn't have or couldn't disclose any details yet about where a Trump event would take place, months ago he floated the idea of the First Niagara Center. If that's the case it could cause raise some issues for the City of Buffalo and Erie County which own the property and the building, respectively. 'We wouldn't prohibit Mr. Trump from holding an event there just like we wouldn't prohibit any candidate from holding an event there just because we might disagree with the policies or worried about issues associated with security,' Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, D, said. It wouldn't be the first time the arena has hosted a political event. Bill Clinton, for instance, gave a speech to 18,000 people there in 1999."

TRANSPO BEAT -- "MTA to Run Out of Capital Program Money by June 30" -- WNYC's Kate Hinds: For the past 18 months, the MTA's 2015-2019 capital program has wandered in the wilderness, waiting for a state board to approve it and the legislature and the governor to fund it. Until those hurdles are crossed, the agency can't award contracts for projects in the program - like new subway cars, the next phase of the Second Avenue subway, or the long-delayed successor to the Metro-Card.

"In previous months, agency officials have said they've had to fish for spare change under couch cushions to keep projects from getting delayed. But on Wednesday, MTA CEO Tom Prendergast indicated that wouldn't be an option much longer. 'June 30th of this year,' he told reporters after the agency's monthly board meeting. 'That's when we run out of money.'"

NO JAIL TIME -- Prosecutor Won't Seek Prison for Liang, Ex-Officer Convicted in Killing of Akai Gurley -- Times' Alan Feuer: " The Brooklyn district attorney's office announced on Wednesday that it would not seek prison time for the former New York City police officer convicted last month in the fatal shooting of a young man in a Brooklyn housing project. In a statement noting that the case was about 'justice and not about revenge,' the district attorney, Ken Thompson, recommended that the officer, Liang, receive five years of probation, including six months of home confinement, when he faces sentencing next month. 'Mr. Liang has no prior criminal history and poses no future threat to public safety,' Mr. Thompson's statement said. 'Because his incarceration is not necessary to protect the public, and due to the unique circumstances of this case, a prison sentence is not warranted.'"

-- BACKLASH: Gurley's mother Sylvia Palmer, stepfather Kenneth Palmer and aunt Hertenica sen said in a joint statement they are outraged by Thompson's recommendation. "The District Attorney's inadequate recommendation diminishes what Liang did. It diminishes Akai's death" and "we hope that Judge Chun will take seriously the crimes for which Liang was convicted, and appropriately sentence Liang to serve time in prison." Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a retired NYPD captain, said he is uncertain whether he would have made the same recommendation.

-- A spokesperson for de Blasio did not answer directly when asked if the mayor agrees with Thompson that is is inappropriate to send Liang to jail. Spokeswoman Monica Klein said in a statement, "The death of Akai Gurley was a tragedy, and this case now rests with the judge, who we trust will make an impartial and just decision."

-- PBA President Patrick Lynch: "Criminalizing a mistake, even a tragic accidental discharge like this, serves no good purpose. The reasons cited by the DA for justifying no jail time in this tragedy are the very same reasons that the officer should not have been indicted in the first place."

-- Public Safety Chairwoman Vanessa Gibson said she was "shocked," by Thompson's recommendation and that "I am not convinced this is the most appropriate outcome."

-- The Justice Committee said the recommendation "exposes Thompson as a hypocrite and part of a criminal justice system that continues to devalue Black lives."POLITICO New York's Azi Paybarah:

-- Councilman Jumaane Williams: "The recommendation could have a chilling effect on accountability."

-- Amsterdam News: "Shock reverberates as DA Thompson suggests probation for killer cop"

-- Slate's Leon Neyfakh: "[B]eneath the surface, the case did not quite fit the narrative of a civil rights victory. Liang had shot Gurley by accident, not on purpose ... This was not Darren Wilson in Ferguson deciding that Michael Brown was a deadly threat and shooting him, he says, in order to protect himself. This was not Michael Slager in Charleston deliberately shooting Walter Scott in the back as he fled. This was a rookie cop having his gun out and his finger on the trigger while on patrol, and firing without meaning to when he heard a loud noise. Liang was bad at his job, and his mistake cost an innocent man his life. But the fact that he might not serve any prison time for it should not enrage anyone.

-- "[I]t seems to me that, whether Liang goes to prison or not, the political climate surrounding police violence has already shifted dramatically. That, more than anything, is what's going to drive down the number of people who die at the hands of law enforcement."

JUDGE RETIRES -- Stop-and-frisk Judge Scheindlin steps down from bench -- Post's Lia Eustachewich: "The Manhattan federal judge who in 2013 was booted off the high-profile stop-and-frisk case is stepping down from the bench to work in private practice. In a letter to colleagues Wednesday morning, Judge Shira Scheindlin said her last day will be on April 29 after just over 21 years of service in the Southern District. She announced she will be moving on to practice law in the private sector at a 'large' New York City law firm, where she'll be 'assisting in client and pro bono matters, teaching and mentoring associates, and engaging in public speaking and writing.' 'These have been the best years of my life in which I have had the pleasure of working with wonderful colleagues and the opportunity to work on many important and interesting cases,' Scheindlin wrote. 'While I will no doubt miss both the work and my colleagues, I am looking forward to taking on new challenges in the private sector.'"


MM-V and FERRERAS-COPELAND on the tampon tax: "an average person who menstruates spends at least $70 a year for a necessary product, contributing $14 million to state coffers. In fact, five plaintiffs recently filed a $28 million lawsuit seeking a refund for every New York woman of childbearing age. Condoms? Tax-exempt. Rogaine? Same. So why do women pay a unique tax on our very biology?" Daily News op-ed:

-- Coffee union: "A union has withdrawn its petition to organize workers at Mount Kisco Mrs. Green's Natural Market, according to a union official. The United Food and Commercial Workers Local1500's move comes after a nearly two-year period of disputes between workers and Mrs. Green's that included two settlements through the National Labor Relations Board. The Mount Kisco Mrs. Green's is on Lexington Avenue." Journal News' Michael McKinney:

-- Censored: "Oyster Bay consultant tells critic to remove items from Facebook." Newsday's Ted Phillips:

-- Encryption: "Israeli Security Firm Helping FBI Unlock San Bernardino Shooter's Phone" Observer's John Bonazzo:

-- Policing: "The court-appointed monitor of NYPD stop-and-frisk practices has officially filed a new reporting form that encourages officers to write a narrative of the reasons for a stop instead of relying on checkboxes with overused explanations like 'furtive movement.'" Newsday:

HOUSING POLITICS-"De Blasio heralds housing wins, laments Bloomberg's policies," by POLITICO New York's Sally Goldenberg: "The day after the City Council passed two of his affordable housing proposals, Mayor Bill de Blasio took a stroll around his old Park Slope neighborhood on Wednesday to tout the changes and lament what could have become of the area had a similar policy been in place when it was rezoned in 2003. 'I think this is a day that's bringing up a lot of feeling for me because I'm so proud of what we achieved this week and I know it's going to make a difference for thousands and thousands of people. But I also realize what could've been done if, 12 years ago, this vision had been put in place,' de Blasio said during a 20-minute interview with POLITICO. ... De Blasio was the Park Slope city councilman at the time of the rezoning and voted in favor of it, which is particularly relevant because the Council has an unwritten policy of deferring to a local member on land use matters. He said he tried push the Bloomberg administration to include affordable housing, to no avail. 'I remember vividly talking to Dan Doctoroff about a voluntary inclusionary zoning program and even that they were adamantly opposed to,' he said while walking along a commercial corridor on Fifth Avenue. Doctoroff was Bloomberg's deputy mayor for economic development. 'Really lost opportunity,' de Blasio added. A spokesman for Bloomberg declined to respond to de Blasio's remarks."

ROLLING STONE endorses Hillary - publisher Jann S. Wenner: "Idealism and honesty are crucial qualities for me, but I also want someone with experience who knows how to fight hard".

REAL ESTATE -- PAY DAY-"Vornado CEO Steve Roth to be paid record $10.85M for 2015," by The Real Deal's Konrad Putzier: "Stocks are down, but pay is up at Vornado Realty Trust ... [with Roth getting] his largest pay package ever. The raise comes amid weak stock performance at the real estate investment trust. Vornado's share price has fallen 19.4 percent since a January 2015 peak, closing at $92.43 Tuesday. Other leading REITs such as SL Green Realty and Boston Properties also saw their stocks fall in recent months amid worries over the global economy and the health of the U.S. real estate market. The pay package - which includes $261,724 for a car and driver - still has to be approved at a May 19 shareholder meeting."

TUNNEL VISION-"Gateway tunnel project taking a $70M step forward," by POLITICO New York's Dana Rubinstein: "The effort to build a new rail tunnel connecting New Jersey to midtown Manhattan to replace the existing, century-old one now falling apart is poised to take another step forward. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Amtrak will each allot $35 million toward preliminary engineering work in an effort to speed up the project, which transportation experts consider critical to the region's economic health. The announcement was first reported earlier Wednesday by POLITICO New York. The engineering work will complement the Amtrak-funded environmental study NJ Transit is conducting. 'It means Gateway is moving along, choogling down the track,' said Sen. Chuck Schumer, one of the project's principal advocates."

THE HOME TEAMS -- POLITICO New York's Howard Megdal: Knicks 115, Bulls 107: Kristaps Porzingis not only scored 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, he also did this.

-- The day ahead: LeBron James and the Cavs are in Brooklyn. The Bulls come to The Garden for the second half of a home-and-home.

#UpstateAmerica: An Oswego County man who was attempting to dismantle a beaver dam will not face criminal charges, state police said.

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

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