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POLITICO New York Playbook: JOHNSON clinches speaker's race -- FARINA DEPARTS -- TURMOIL at the MTA board

12/21/2017 07:20 AM EDT

By Jimmy Vielkind in Albany and Laura Nahmias in Manhattan, with Daniel Lippman

New York City Councilman Corey Johnson will almost certainly be the next speaker of the chamber, a decision that by some accounts has been sewn up for weeks already, in contrast to the high drama that accompanied Melissa Mark-Viverito's election four years ago. Johnson has been assiduously courting the favor of his fellow members and the Bronx and Queens County organizations that effectively control the position for more than a year, often trekking late after work to events in those boroughs, beyond his Chelsea District.

But his victory has implications beyond what it says about the diligence it took for him to beat out seven other candidates for the post. It is a victory and a reaffirmation of political power for Rep. Joe Crowley, the head of the Queens Democratic party, whose choice for speaker, outgoing Councilman Dan Garodnick, lost the race four years ago to Mark-Viverito, who was the preferred choice of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

It is also a reaffirmation of the political power of the Hotel Trades Council, the small but strong union that backed Johnson's candidacy, and another signal of the declining influence of 1199 SEIU, the massive health care union that joined with 32BJ to lead a consortium of labor groups in backing Councilmen Mark Levine, Donovan Richards and Ritchie Torres as their preferred speaker choices. 1199 has inarguably lost some of its political might since the departure of its former political director Kevin FInnegan.

Many have also suggested Johnson's victory is a major defeat for Mayor Bill de Blasio, who played kingmaker four years ago, but whose rumored preferred candidate, Mark Levine, did not prevail this year - perhaps an unavoidable consequence of the mayor's status as a lame-duck.

Less talked about - Johnson's victory may also signal the mayor's shifting priorities, which have been on display this week as the mayor journeyed to Iowa once again to promote his national agenda. As the New York Times points out: De Blasio is "wary of alienating Representative Joseph of the highest-ranking Democrats in the House. New York City depends on federal funds and is bracing for cuts, and the mayor still appears to harbor national ambitions."

HAPPY THURSDAY. It's the winter solstice, which means it's the shortest day of the year. Things should get sunnier from here on out. Got tips, suggestions or thoughts? Let us know ... By email:,, and, or on Twitter: @JimmyVielkind, @nahmias, and @dlippman.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: There will be no Playbook from December 26 through January 1st. We'll be back on January 2nd.

WHERE'S ANDREW? Making announcements in Syracuse and on Long Island.

WHERE'S BlLL? Attending a holiday party for the City Hall press corps at Gracie Mansion.

The Tabloids: - New York Post: "KNICK VS. DICTATOR"- Daily News: "HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS"- See Them

The Tabloids, Continued: - Newsday: "$1B BET AT BELMONT"- El Diario New York: "'Santa' Trump de los ricos" - TRANSLATION: "'Santa' Trump of the rich" - See Them

The Free Papers: - AM New York: "CAN I PARK YOUR BIKE? City testing bicycle valet program"- Metro New York: "HOLIDAY $CAMMERS"- See Them

The Broadsheets: - New York Times: -banner headline: "G.O.P. EXULTS AS CONGRESS DELIVERS TAX BILL"- Wall Street Journal:-banner headline: "Tax Vote Seals Victory for Trump" - See Them

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Let's go back - let's give Jeff Wilpon and the Mets a better round of applause then we did last time." ~ Cuomo on Long Island

BONUS QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Some of the things are easy-ish: it will ask you what a knish is," - a woman who took the city's (apparently difficult) exam to become a licensed tour guide, to AM New York.

** POLITICO is accepting applications for its fifth session of the POLITICO Journalism Institute (PJI), an educational initiative focused on newsroom diversity. The intensive program, which is designed for college students, will be held May 29 to June 9, 2018. It features hands-on training for up to 12 recent grads and university students interested in covering government and politics. Students also will have an opportunity to have their work published by POLITICO. All expenses are paid for the program, reflecting POLITICO's ongoing support of journalism education, newsroom diversity and recruitment of top-notch talent. Admissions are made on a rolling basis, so APPLY TODAY but no later than Jan. 15, 2018. **

INFOGRAPHIC - How States Are Fighting the Opioid Epidemic: New York and other states are working to prevent opioid abuse through prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP). Download our infographic for a state-level look at PDMP, including how quickly doctors and pharmacists are required to report dispensing the drug.


M.T.A. BOARD STRIFE - POLITICO's Dana Rubinstein: A prominent law firm hired by concerned Metropolitan Transportation Authority board members drafted a lawsuit this fall contending that the MTA has fallen victim to "an unlawful power-grab by the chairman and management of the MTA." The lawsuit, drafted but never filed, by Cravath, Swaine & Moore chairman Evan Chesler, derives from a decision by the MTA audit committee to retain outside legal counsel in late September to advise it on the legality of the agency's actions, and protect members from potential liability. The initial trigger for the hiring of Cravath was a report that Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration had directed the MTA to send $4.9 million to three state-run ski resorts. But in its retention letter, which was approved by MTA chairman Joe Lhota, the board's audit committee reserved the right to have Cravath examine "other matters," too, according to a knowledgeable source.

And so it did. While the law firm determined that the ski resort transfer was "more likely than not proper," in October it produced a blistering analysis about a different matter entirely. The draft legal memorandum accompanying the suit, co-written by Chesler, found that the agency's use of a "disaster emergency" declared by Cuomo represents "a vastly overbroad" interpretation of the executive order. By using the order to suspend board oversight of up to $102 million in contracts with private vendors, including for some seemingly routine services, MTA management was "robbing the Board, whose members are equally committed to serving MTA customers, of their statutory duty to oversee procurement activity," according to the Cravath memo. While the suit has not been filed, the episode reflects a new level of distrust between the board and MTA management, at a time of unusually high stakes for the agency that runs the subway system. Read more here

- MORE MONEY FOR SYRACUSE FACTORY - Syracuse Post-Standard's Tim Knauss: "Two years after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state was building a $90 million factory where LED lightbulb manufacturer Soraa would create 420 jobs, the factory is nearly complete -- but Soraa has decided not to come. Now the Cuomo administration is planning to sink another $15 million into the facility to bring in a different company. NexGen Power Systems, a startup company from California, plans to manufacture semiconductors for the electronics industry in the 82,000-square-foot plant in DeWitt, said Howard Zemsky, CEO of Empire State Development... Zemsky said Soraa decided not to use the facility about two months ago, after state officials declined the company's request to spend 'tens of millions' of dollars more to equip the factory, on top of the $90 million already spent. Soraa had not spent any money on the plant, and it would have paid just $1 a year in rent. The company does not face any penalty for walking away. 'It was a mutual decision' to part ways, Zemsky said." Read more here

- PLATTSBURGH'S FINANCIAL COLLAPSE - NCPR's Zach Hirsch: "There's a big scandal brewing in the City of Plattsburgh. In a private conversation caught on tape last week, Mayor Colin Read said the city could dissolve or go bankrupt in the foreseeable future. He also spoke bluntly about city employees and revealed a bitter feud between the city and the Town of Plattsburgh. Last Thursday's Common Council meeting was uneventful and ended after about an hour. 'That's all I have to report,' Mayor Read said after talking about the city's snow removal policy and renovations at city hall.

- But when the meeting ended, the city's live video feed on YouTube kept going. No one turned it off and Read spent another 20 minutes speaking with city councilor Mike Kelly. That's when things got real. 'So yeah, everything's kind of screwed up and we're so far away from having it fixed,' Read said, apparently about the city's financial situation in general. City officials quickly took down this part of the video, but someone anonymously uploaded the private conversation again to YouTube." Read more here

- NEW YORK ON PACE TO LOSE ONE CONGRESSIONAL SEAT - POLITICO's Bill Mahoney: Despite New York's small population gain in census estimates released Wednesday, it's likely that the state will lose one of its 27 congressional seats in the 2022 reapportionment. New York's population was estimated at 19.85 million as of July 1. That's up by 471,297 from the last decennial census conducted in 2010. But the gain - 2.4 percent - is less than the 5.5 percent growth in the country as a whole. POLITICO looked at the shifts of population in each state from 2010 through 2017, then assumed that they will continue unchanged for another three years. New York is on pace to top 20 million residents by the next reapportionment, but if trends continue as they have so far this decade, its share of the country's population will dip from 6.29 percent to 6.03 percent. Assuming the size of the House of Representatives remains unchanged at 435 members, the formula that's used to distribute seats will likely mean the loss of a seat, probably upstate, in New York. That would be the state's smallest decrease in representation in 70 years. Read more here

- More than a million people have left New York since the 2010 Census, a net domestic migration that is higher than any other state, the Empire Center's E.J. McMahon notes.

- UBER ENDORSES CONGESTION PRICING - Daily News's Ken Lovett: "Ride-sharing service Uber is launching a TV ad campaign in New York City next week to support the state enacting a congestion-pricing plan to help raise funds for the cash-strapped subway system. The six-figure ad buy, which will kick off Tuesday on city cable stations, is the start of a "comprehensive" campaign to create a congestion-pricing plan that would charge more to enter into busy parts of Manhattan, an Uber official said." Read more here


- SIGNAL BOOST - Daily News's Dan Rivoli: "The MTA has started top-secret testing of technology that could make subways run more efficiently, the Daily News has learned. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority hopes the technology - known as Ultra-Wideband radio - will be the fix for their signal woes, transit officials told the News. The technology, in its early proof-of-concept phase, could let the MTA pinpoint trains' locations, allowing them to run closer together and boosting service. It could even let riders to use their cell phones inside subway tunnels between stations." Read more here.

SCOOP: CARMEN FARINA STEPPING DOWN EARLY NEXT YEAR - POLITICO's Eliza Shapiro: City schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña will leave the Department of Education in the new year, possibly before the end of the school year in June, a city official confirmed today. Fariña, who has served as chancellor for the last four years, will formally announce her resignation on Thursday. A national search for her replacement is underway. It has been widely speculated that Fariña, who is 75, would not serve a second term as chancellor under Mayor Bill de Blasio. De Blasio successfully convinced Fariña to come out of retirement and serve as chancellor in late 2013...She helped oversee the city's pre-K expansion, which is considered the mayor's signature achievement, and the Renewal School program, which has had much more mixed results. Read more here

-How Fariña approaches the next-to-impossible task of running a system of 1.1 million students, most of whom are black or Latino and poor. Call it the first name basis theory of school change. Read more here

-Fariña's legacy of replacing almost all of the system's superintendents - and empowering them - will last far beyond her tenure as chancellor. Read more about how she's restructured the system around superintendents, rather than principals, here.

-Fariña perfected the art of purging bad teachers by working around the powerful teachers' union over her fifty years as an educator in New York City. Read more about how she encouraged the city's current crop of principals to do the same here.

-In her last year as educator, Fariña sought to take on detractors of public education, from Donald Trump to Betsy DeVos to some of her critics at home. Read more here.

- IOWA, THAT OLD FAMILIAR SONG - New York Times's Shane Goldmacher: "If the idea of Mr. de Blasio-to-Iowa rings familiar, that's because it is. He did much the same in 2015, to notable failure. He tried to get Democrats to adopt his "progressive agenda," launched a nonprofit group and promised a presidential forum. All three fizzled. He then stalled for months before endorsing his former boss, Hillary Clinton, and when he finally did, her campaign buried his blessing among an avalanche of other mayoral backers....Mr. de Blasio is not particularly introspective about his past failures. "I had a good concept and didn't figure out how to actualize it consistently enough," he said, adding that Senator Bernie Sanders "came out of nowhere" and accomplished many of Mr. de Blasio's initial goals. The mayor is also dismissive of any criticism that his attention is divided,mockingly popping gum into his mouth and walking out of a room full of reporters to demonstrate his multitasking skills." Read more here

- "New York Hot Dogs in a Corn Dog State" - New York Times Editorial Board: "One was almost tempted to feel sorry for Iowa. Who needed all those New Yorkers running around Des Moines just to play out their own feuds? There may be more to come. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand are both widely presumed to be thinking 2020 would be a splendid year to try ascending the political ladder. Should those thoughts become reality, New York accents might well reverberate from Sioux City to Dubuque....As for Mr. de Blasio, he sought to show skeptical New Yorkers that he can take to the road and simultaneously run their city by unsubtly popping gum into his mouth and striding off. Got it: He can walk and chew gum at the same time. We'll keep an eye, though, on what else he chews on. If he starts nibbling corn dogs or deep-fried Snickers bars, we'll know he's thinking one-I and gearing up to hit the state fair there two summers from now." Read more here

- "New York City's Bold, Flawed Attempt to Make Algorithms Accountable" - Julia Powles, for the New Yorker: "The end of a politician's time in office often inspires a turn toward the existential, but few causes are as quixotic as the one chosen by James Vacca, who this month hits his three-term limit as a New York City Council member, representing the East Bronx. Vacca's nearly four decades in local government could well be defined by a bill that he introduced in August , and that passed last Monday by a unanimous vote. Once signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio, the legislation will establish a task force to examine the city's "automated decision systems"-the computerized algorithms that guide the allocation of everything from police officers and firehouses to public housing and food stamps-with an eye toward making them fairer and more open to scrutiny." Read more here


THE FISCAL IMPACT - Report from state comptroller Tom DiNapoli: "The City's economy is strong, the FY 2018 budget is balanced and the out-year gaps are manageable under current conditions. Changes in federal fiscal policies, however, constitute the greatest risk to the City since the Great Recession." Read the report here.

What the Tax Plan means for New Yorkers - Partnership for New York City: "The average family of four that earns $175,000 will pay 25% of their income in taxes; in Florida the same family will pay 14%. The average family of four that earns $750,000 will pay 40% of their income in taxes; in Florida the same family will pay 30%. The top 1% of filers, New York City residents earning over $700,000, account for 49% of all income tax revenues in New York City." Read the analysis here.


- TRUMP SOHO REBRANDS - WNYC's Ilya Marritz: "The beleaguered Trump SoHo hotel has a new identity: it's The Dominick. CIM, the private equity group which owns the property, announced the change to hotel staff on Thursday. CIM will operate the hotel, in affiliation with the Preferred Hotels Group's Legend Collection. That means the Trump Organization will no longer manage the property. Since Donald Trump was elected president, the SoHo saw a decline in business. But the property's problems go back to before opening day in 2010: there was a construction fatality, a business partner with ties to the mob, and later a criminal investigation into Donald Trump, Jr. and Ivanka Trump over their role in marketing the building.

The hotel sits just north of Dominick Street, near the Holland Tunnel." Read more here

REAL ESTATE, with POLITICO New York's Dana Rubinstein:

- SPACE INVADERS - "WeWork, No Longer in a Sharing Mood, Hunts for New Tenants on Rivals' Turf," by The Wall Street Journal's Eliot Brown: "Executives of shared-office space giant WeWork Cos. have long played down competitive threats, saying that similar companies help the fledgling sector grow. But in recent months the seven-year-old company has changed its tune. Armed with a $3.1 billion commitment of new cash from SoftBank Group Corp.'s investment fund this summer, WeWork has ratcheted up pressure on an array of competitors, offering their tenants lucrative deals-and sometimes even free food-to convince them to defect. Co-working companies around the globe, from small operators of a single space such as Wolf Bielas in San Diego to midsize competitors like Bond Collective in New York, say that this fall, WeWork embarked on a marketing blitz to lure large numbers of their tenants with a year of free rent with a two-year contract. The offer was so generous that these smaller companies say they would lose money if they matched it." Read the story here.

- "They Lost Their Homes. Now A Reality TV Star Is Selling Them" - BuzzFeed's Lisa Riordan Seville and Lukas Vrbka : " Behind the scenes of Million Dollar Listing New York are black and Latino families who lost their homes in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis...Their transformation into reality TV dream homes played into a growing crisis in affordable housing, with vulnerable New Yorkers losing their grip on homeownership just as the value of their homes is skyrocketing. "It's a land grab," said Catherine Isobe, an attorney at Brooklyn Legal Services. "It's a big wealth transfer from people of color who scraped and saved to get these houses when no one wanted to live in these houses, to the white people who now want to move in." When one looks at the fallout of the Great Recession, "the winners and losers are clear," said Josh Zinner, who founded one of New York City's first foreclosure aid projects in the 1990s. It was particularly devastating for black families, who, nationally, lost half of their collective wealth. "It was whole communities that were destroyed." Read more here


HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is 55 ... former Rep. Alton Waldon (D-N.Y.) is 81 ... Brian Goldsmith, political consultant for Yahoo News and co-host of the Katie Couric podcast ... Carl Gray, M.S. real estate development candidate at NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate and a Hillary alum ... Julia Mellon, VP at Bliss Integrated Communication ... Dutchess County progressive activist Joel Tyner ... Assemblyman Chris Friend ... Hope Knight of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation


- Listen to the final words (in office) of nine of New York's departing City Council members

- New York collected more than $102 million in bottle and can deposits that went unclaimed during the state's 2016 fiscal year.

- Page Six wonders why Cuomo has never named his girlfriend Sandra Lee on his Christmas card, even though they've been together for 12 years.

MORNING MEDIA, with POLITICO's Michael Calderone:

-THRUSH STAYS - NEW YORK TIMES EXECUTIVE EDITOR DEAN BAQUET said Glenn Thrush "behaved in ways that we do not condone" and "acted offensively." Yet Baquet decided that Thrush could return to the Times after a two-month suspension stemming from the paper's investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior toward young women journalists. Thrush, however, will have to leave the White House beat and continue substance abuse counseling. Meanwhile, Random House said Thrush is no longer attached to a Trump book project with colleague Maggie Haberman, while his status as an MSNBC contributor remains up in the air.

From my piece: - Vox's Laura McGann wrote last month that Thrush made unwanted advances or behaved inappropriately toward four women journalists, including herself when they both worked at POLITICO. While several Times journalists told POLITICO in recent weeks that they felt Thrush acted recklessly and his reported actions reflected poorly on the paper, some felt that he did not deserve to be fired because the alleged incidents occurred outside the workplace and involved women whom he did not directly manage or, in some cases, work with.

- The decision about Thrush's fate has been closely watched inside and outside the newsroom given the Times' groundbreaking reporting this year on sexual misconduct allegations against powerful men in media and entertainment. Vanity Fair reported last week that dozens of staffers at the Times and POLITICO had been interviewed for what had become "a sex-reckoning test case."


The Mets extended general manager Sandy Alderson's contract. Terms were not disclosed, so exactly how much longer Alderson will need to cover for the financial problems of the Wilpons is not yet clear.

Kings 104, Nets 99: Old friend Zach Randolph is having a late-career renaissance, and scored 21 to sink the Nets in Brooklyn.

The day ahead: the Knicks host the Celtics. The Rangers are in New Jersey. The Islanders welcome Anaheim to Barclays.

#UpstateAmerica: At least they cleared the snow off their windshield.

#ZooYork: Eighty-three year old Brooklyn Judge Fredric Block has written a book loosely based on Ken Thompson, the former Brooklyn District Attorney.

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

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