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POLITICO New York Playbook, presented by RBC Capital Markets: DE BLASIO and the POPE -- CUOMO's inert ratings -- city cat count

09/24/2015 07:25AM EDT

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

MAYOR'S MESSAGE, POPE'S COATTAILS --"De Blasio Hopes Pope's Message on Inequality Will Magnify His Own," by Times' Michael M. Grynbaum: "Mayor Bill de Blasio believes he has found the perfect messenger to advance his administration's cause: the head of the Roman Catholic Church. ... [T]he mayor is determined to harness the influence and celebrity of a religious leader whose populism, he believes, has much in common with his own goals of combating inequality and injustice. 'We are amplifying the pope's agenda; we are answering his call to action,' Mr. de Blasio told reporters on Wednesday, as he and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York, announced new services for the city's homeless."

THE CATHOLIC VOTE, 2015 - POLITICO New York's Laura Nahmias: Mayor Bill de Blasio made a pilgrimage to the Vatican this summer and came back enamored of Pope Francis, saying he was "honored" just to be in the same room with him. De Blasio has created a seemingly unlikely alliance with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York and the public face of Catholicism in New York. And while he is at odds with the church's positions on social issues, he seems ready for a Catholic moment in New York as the pope comes to town. But in purely political terms, the mayor's enthusiasm for Francis and his relationship with Dolan may not matter when 2017 comes around.

De Blasio's most significant support in his successful 2013 campaign came mostly from black or Latino areas of the city, and much less from areas considered white Catholic. The once-powerful white Catholic vote in the city has significantly diminished compared to the rest of the electorate, and de Blasio's re-election in 2017 will likely depend on retaining the support of other groups that have increased in influence, such as African-Americans and progressives.

--"New York's Transportation Command Prepares for the Papal Disruptions," by Times' Emma G. Fitzsimmons: "Inside New York City's bustling traffic command center in Queens, a mosaic of screens fills a long wall, broadcasting dozens of live feeds of vehicles moving about the city. ... It is here, at the city's Joint Traffic Management Center, that transportation officials and police officers will be working to make sure things go as smoothly as possible. To limit the gridlock, the city has promoted a unified message: New Yorkers should avoid driving in Midtown Manhattan and use mass transit."

DE BLASIO INC -- "The transactional mayor returns," by Politico New York's Laura Nahmias and Sally Goldenberg: "City Hall is open for business. After the 12-year mayoralty of billionaire Mike Bloomberg ... a more transactional style of politics has taken hold through an organization Mayor Bill de Blasio set up to promote his policy agenda. Since its inception on Dec. 12, 2013, the operation known as Campaign for One New York has accepted $3.87 million from dozens of real estate developers, unions and others who do business with City Hall. The setup allows the mayor to raise money outside the regulations of the city Campaign Finance Board.

"The contributors to his group include individuals and firms seeking approvals for their projects, and they often donate through limited liability companies that obscure their identities. In some cases, donors gave money right before or after getting a city-granted benefit, according to a POLITICO New York review of $1.71 million in individual contributions that poured in during the first six months of 2015. At least 46 of 74 donors listed in the latest six-month filing - 62 percent of them - either had business or labor contracts with City Hall or were trying to secure approval for a project when they contributed."

ABOUT LAST NIGHT: New York State Conservative Party chairman Mike Long is in Washington, D.C. to view Pope Francis' address to Congress, and broke bread with several Republicans in New York's house delegation: Chris Collins (who secured Long's ticket for Francis' speech - quite the chit to lend), Chris Gibson, John Katko, Lee Zeldin (the only Jewish Republican in Congress) and Elise Stefanik. A GOP aide said the conversation touched on excitement around pope visit, state politics and 2016.

CUOMO RATINGS FLAT - POLITICO New York's Jimmy Vielkind: A summer of base-tending hasn't boosted Gov. Andrew Cuomo's job approval rating, a new poll shows. The Democratic governor's favorability rating ticked up a point from July, to 50 percent, compared with 42 percent of New Yorkers who view him unfavorably, a poll by the Siena Research Institute found. But just 39 percent of the 817 registered voters polled approve of the job Cuomo is doing - the same level as earlier this summer. That stagnation comes after Cuomo deliberately checked in with left-leaning allies over the summer, after the end of a legislative session marked by more corruption arrests than accomplishments and by a denunciation by his "friend" New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said Cuomo had hampered his agenda.

Here are the poll's cross-tabs:

EAT BEAT -- "Status Tables: Where VIPs Sit at 20 New York Restaurants," by Grub Street's Sierra Tishgart: "Estela ... The Spotted Pig ... Maison Premiere ... Carbone ... Nobu ... The Polo Bar ... The Dutch ... The Breslin ... Seamore's ... Minetta Tavern ... Balthazar ... Charlie Bird ... Ma Peche ... Buvette ... Keen ... Barbuto ... Daniel ... Jean Georges ... Dirty French ... The Cecil."

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I already feel deeply connected to what this pope is doing." -- Mayor Bill de Blasio, in an interview with Times' Michael Grynbaum:

BONUS QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Unless the Mets win the World Series or the Yankees, there is nothing that could be better for the mayor than to be associated with someone like Pope Francis. ... The mayor would have to be the village idiot not to take this opportunity." -- Ken Sherrill, a political scientist at CUNY-Hunter, via WSJ:

VIDEO OF THE DAY: "What Middle-Schoolers Think of Pope Francis" via WNYC's Jennifer Hsu:

NEW HIRE -- SKDKnickerbocker hired Anna McGrath to join the company's team in New York. McGrath previously worked at Edelman, handling "corporate reputation management," according to an announcement being sent later today from SKDKnickerbocker. "Anna's background in crisis management and unique approach to public affairs campaigns will be a strong addition to our corporate and advocacy practices," said Loren Riegelhaupt, chief of staff for SKDK. Fun fact: McGrath is also training to run the 2015 New York Marathon.

TABS -- Post: "IT AINT OVER 'TILL IT'S OVER: Yogi Berra 1925-2015" -- News: "I AM AN IMMIGRANT: Pope calls on Americans to protect weak" -- amNY: "POPE ARRIVES IN NYC TODAY" and "REMEMBERING YOGI" -- El Diario [translated]: I am an immigrant's son.

FRONT PAGES -- NYT, 2-col. above the fold: "Pope's First U.S. Message Is Pastoral and Political: At White House, Francis Addresses Poverty, Climate Change and Immigration" -- WSJNY, 6-col. above the fold: "New York Set to Welcome Pope Francis"

** A message from RBC Capital Markets: RBC Capital Markets U.S. Municipal Finance group strives to help our clients build better communities. We believe design-build procurement enables clients to do so more efficiently and effectively with existing resources. To learn about the successes of design-build implementation, CLICK HERE for a full report by NYU's Rudin Center. **

CAT STAT -- 576,000 cats kept as pets in NYC -- News' Lisa Colangelo: "More than 576,000 cats are owned by city residents, according to estimates in a new report obtained by the Daily News. And that doesn't include the scores of stray cats living on the streets of the five boroughs. While the numbers are only estimates, this is the first time the city has tried to determine the number of pet cats and whether their owners were getting them spayed or neutered. Staten Island has the highest proportion of households with cats at 14%, according to the NYC Vital Signs study conducted by the city Health Department."

DE BLASIO MET WITH CLINTON AIDES BEFORE NON-ENDORSEMENT -- POLITICO New York's Laura Nahmias: A week before he appeared on "Meet the Press" earlier in April and declined to endorse his former boss Hillary Clinton for president publicly, Mayor Bill de Blasio met privately with the newly-minted candidate's campaign manager Robby Mook and her top pollster Joel Benenson, the mayor's newly released schedules show.

-- The three met in the Peach Room at Gracie Mansion at 8:30 p.m. on April 7. A week later, de Blasio appeared on NBC's Sunday show and said that, "like a lot of people in this country," he was waiting "to see a vision" from Clinton - a non-endorsement that some fellow Democrats criticized as an unnecessary and arrogant jab at the likely Democratic frontrunner.

-- One unusual guest he met with inside Gracie Mansion would later go on to make a significant appearance in federal prosecutors' criminal indictment of one of Albany's top legislative leaders. On April 23, de Blasio met with Anthony Bonomo - the head of Physicians' Reciprocal Insurers, the largest medical malpractice insurance company in the New York area ... A little more than a month after he met with de Blasio, Bonomo appeared as the unnamed head of an insurance company cited in U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's criminal complaint against Dean Skelos.

-- Flashback, June 2015: Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook: "Bill de Blasio is a very good friend ... I remember bringing up a whole caravan of cars to help volunteer on his public advocate race. And ... we look forward to continuing that dialogue with him."

#HILLARYWATCH -- Does Biden jump in? -- Evan Thies, Democratic strategist: "He's got to be eyeing this the way a rottweiler eyes a steak. ... He's the perfect candidate right now." -- Tampa Mallory, Democratic strategist: "There's a strong chance he may." via NY1's "Inside City Hall":

TRAILER OF THE DAY - "Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett Weather [Dan] 'Rathergate' in 'Truth'"

DE BLASIO AND THE CHURCH -- AP's Jonathan Lemire: "Invoking pope, NYC mayor bolsters outreach to homeless" -- " De Blasio has frequently invoked the pope as an inspiration for his battle with income inequality in the nation's largest city. He has called the pontiff the world's 'moral leader' on issues like climate change and help for the poor. The mayor, whose mother was a lapsed Catholic, has said he is 'spiritual' but does not subscribe to any organized religion. But he has often touted the work faith groups do as agents of social change ... De Blasio is expected to attend nearly all the pope's events once the pontiff arrives in New York ... Among the items on Pope Francis' packed itinerary are a Mass at Madison Square Garden, a prayer service at the Sept. 11 memorial and a visit to an East Harlem school filled with students from low-income families."

-- WSJ's Josh Dawsey: "Bill de Blasio's ties to Cardinal Timothy Dolan prove valuable on difficult issues, but many Catholics remain leery of mayor": "Political observers and people close to the mayor say Mr. de Blasio's cultivation of Cardinal Dolan provides him a widely respected ally who commands moral authority. The relationship has helped the mayor in critical moments ... such as the street demonstrations that erupted last year after the death of Staten Island resident Eric Garner in a confrontation with police, and the decision by some officers to turn their backs on the mayor because they saw him as unsympathetic to the rank-and-file. ... Even as the mayor and cardinal frequently consult, a recent Siena poll showed 54% of Catholic New Yorkers surveyed disapproved of the job Mr. de Blasio was doing as mayor, while 29% approved. 'I'm glad he and Dolan get along, but it looks like he's a rank opportunist,' said Bill Donohue, a prominent conservative Catholic. 'When de Blasio gets in trouble with the cops, he goes racing off to the cathedral.'"

MARK-VIVERITO WELCOMES FRANCIS -- POLITICO New York's Gloria Pazmino: In an open letter to Pope Francis on Wednesday, highlighted the gulf that separates it from what she called "one the greatest concentrations of wealth across the five boroughs" just south. During his visit to New York, Francis is scheduled to visit the Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem, following a multi-religious service at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center.

-- "My district is the second poorest in the city of New York, with residents experiencing high levels of unemployment, insecure housing and severe health disparities," Mark-Viverito wrote in the letter. "This contrast is one that has served as a driving force behind the work that I do, making efforts to level the playing field so that everyone can enjoy opportunities to advance, not just a select few. It is also so illustrative of your powerful message as the leader of the Catholic Church." Mark-Viverito is expected to attend during the pope's visit to the school, her office confirmed Wednesday.

RAPE KIT IN NHL PLAYER LEFT ON ALLEGED VICTIM'S DOORSTEP - The Buffalo News' Dan Herbeck and Lou Michel: "The rape kit bag that had contained DNA evidence collected in the Patrick Kane investigation was anonymously delivered to the mother of the alleged victim, attorney Thomas J. Eoannou told reporters Wednesday. The mother of the alleged victim found the torn bag at her home, sandwiched between the storm door and the front door at about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. It could have been there longer because the mother does not always use that door. 'This evidence bag has been ripped open,' Eoannou said, displaying the brown paper bag to reporters and photographers in his Delaware Avenue office. 'This is a significant development in this case.'"

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Malkin & Ross lobbyist Jennifer Muthig, Albany budget aide Alison Jenkins.

ON THE MOVE: One-time Daily Gazette reporter Dave Lombardo is leaving the State Assembly to take a job with StateWatch. OMCE president Barbara Zaron was re-elected.

-- "The Governors Island Alliance ... announced ... the selection of Merritt Birnbaum as its new Executive Director ... [and] comes to the Alliance from the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) where she has served as both Chief Administrative Officer and Chief Development Officer. She ... will work closely with the Trust for Governors Island and the National Park Service's Governors Island National Monument to expand the Alliance's impact on Governors Island."

SILICON ALLEY -- "Silicon Alley v. the Prospect of President Trump," by NY Mag's Annie Lowrey: "This week, New York and the Partnership for New York City convened a panel to talk about Silicon Alley and the city's broader tech economy with Etsy's Chad Dickerson, Goldman Sachs's Gary Cohn, Shutterstock's Jon Oringer, Business Insider and Gilt Groupe's Kevin Ryan, and Nasdaq's Bob Greifeld. The discussion covered topics like the difficulty of hiring programmers, the importance of teaching hacking, tax reform, the ghosts of 1999, and making the city livable."

REAL ESTATE -- SCALING BACK-"1 WTC's first tenant looks to shrink its space by 85%," by Crain's Daniel Geiger: "Vantone Industrial, the first tenant to sign up for office space at 1 World Trade Center, is seeking to dramatically slash its space at the 1,776-foot tower. The request comes a year after it asked to cut its original commitment in half. The Beijing-based company now wants to downsize its lease by 85% to take only a single floor in the 104-story tower for a total of 31,344 square feet, down from 202,000 square feet. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the tower along with the Durst Organization, is expected to vote on the matter at its board meeting scheduled Thursday at 4 World Trade Center."

BUILDING CONTEST-"Urban Land Institute New York announces real estate contest," by POLITICO New York's Sally Goldenberg: "Seeking to encourage real estate projects that enhance neighborhoods and focus on environmental issues, the non-profit Urban Land Institute is kicking off a design contest on Thursday called 2016 Awards in Excellence in Development. Judges will consider public and private projects, as well as non-profit institutions like schools, churches and hospitals, throughout the state, according to an announcement provided in advance to POLITICO New York."

RICH DESIGN-"'Pyramid scheme' catches on with Manhattan developers," by Real Deal's Rich Bockmann: "The developers behind three of Manhattan's tallest condo towers are engaging in pyramid schemes. Ian Bruce Eichner, Fisher Brothers and Francis Greenburger's Time Equities are developing buildings cleverly designed to expand in width as they climb upward. The design - like an inverted pyramid - has the effect of placing more of the developer's buildable square footage on the higher floors, where the premium views command more dollars than the real estate on lower floors."

THE HOME TEAMS -- POLITICO New York's Howard Megdal: Liberty 84, Fever 67: Playing a back-to-back, the Liberty came out and swamped the more rested Fever, with Kiah Stokes leading the offensive charge with 21 points. Tina Charles, playing nearly the entire game, tallied 15 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. The Liberty shot 56.5 percent against a very good Fever team that beat New York three of four in the regular season. The Liberty lead the best-of-three East finals, 1-0, and can clinch a trip to the WNBA finals Sunday in Indianapolis.

-- Braves 6, Mets 3: A three-spot against Jeurys Familia snapped a 3-3 tie in the ninth. But the Nationals lost, so the magic number is now five.

-- Blue Jays 4, Yankees 0: The miraculous Marcus Stroman shut the Yankees out for seven innings to help the Blue Jays increase their lead to 3.5.

-- The day ahead: the Yankees host the White Sox. The Mets are in Cincinnati. The Giants try to avoid a 0-3 start at home against the Redskins.

#UpstateAmerica: Schenectady apparently now has its own theme song.

**A message from RBC Capital Markets: RBC Capital Markets is a recognized leader in U.S. Municipal Financing. RBC is North America's 5th largest bank and has been named by The Economist as the World's Most Trusted Investment Bank. With the resources, national presence and global experience, we focus on assisting our clients with their infrastructure financing needs.**

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