Tag Archives: Sheldon Silver

Catherine Nolan says she wants to replace Sheldon Silver as Assembly speaker


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

Make that two men and a woman in a room.

The three-headed leadership of the New York State government, called “three men in a room,” could soon face a makeover now that Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan announced she wants to replace scandal-scarred Sheldon Silver, who stepped down as Assembly speaker this week.

If Nolan is elected by her fellow members of the Assembly next month, she’ll become the first woman to serve as speaker.

“I am formally announcing my candidacy for speaker of the New York State Assembly. In my 30-year Assembly career I have conducted myself with honesty and integrity. Serving the people of New York State has been my only job — whether it be my own constituents, schoolchildren or working men and women in our state. It will continue to be my only job,” Nolan said in a statement released today that aimed to separate herself from Silver, who has earned millions of dollars as a lawyer while serving as speaker.

Under New York’s rules of government, most key decisions on legislation, budget and other matters of state have been negotiated by the governor, Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader — posts no woman has yet to hold, giving rise to the term “three men in a room.”

“Lost in the names that have been mentioned as potential candidates for speaker is that of a woman,” Nolan said. “A woman has never served as speaker of the Assembly. The press has written extensively and derisively about the sexual harassment cases that have occurred in the legislature over the last few years. It is past time for that ‘culture’ to end once and for all. I am committed to doing just that.”

Silver was a key player in the handling of sexual harassment charges against former Assemblyman Vito Lopez of Brooklyn. Silver had approved a $100,000 settlement with two former legislative aides to settle charges against Lopez in a deal that was kept secret.

Nolan’s name emerged as one of several possible successors to Silver just days after he was arrested by the FBI on federal corruption charges. She was among a small group of lawmakers who were picked by Democratic leaders to share the responsibilities of the speaker’s office under an interim deal.

Now that Silver has agreed to give up his leadership role, Nolan has emerged as one of the first members of the Assembly to officially toss her hat in the ring as a permanent successor to Silver.

Silver, under pressure from Assembly Democrats, stepped down from the speaker’s post on Monday night. He said he will remain a member of the Assembly, but will not “hinder” the efforts to replace him, which should come by Feb. 11.

Until the Assembly meets to vote on Silver’s successor, the day-to-day responsibilities of the speaker’s office will be managed by Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle of Rochester, a close ally of both Silver and Gov. Cuomo.

Nolan, who represents Woodside, Astoria, Ridgewood, Maspeth, and Long Island City, has been a member of the Democratic leadership team in the Assembly, where she is chair of the Education Committee.

The Queens Democratic Party started pushing Nolan’s candidacy even before Silver announced he was relinquishing his role as speaker.

The speaker is elected by the majority conference in the Assembly. Democrats now hold 106 of the chamber’s 150 seats. Other members of the Assembly eyeing the post include Morelle of Rochester, Keith Wright of Manhattan, Joseph Lentol of Brooklyn and Carl Heastie of the Bronx.

“If elected speaker of the New York State Assembly, I will listen to the members of the Democratic Majority Conference with respect and dedication. I have the full support of my family and have been urged by many to step up to the challenges that face our great State of New York.

“It is time for this institution to return to the high standards that the people of our state rightfully demand and expect. I stand ready to work with my colleagues to do just that for the people of the State of New York. They deserve nothing less,” Nolan said.

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Wednesday: A wintry mix this morning will become lighter in the afternoon. Temps nearly steady in the low to mid 30s. Winds NNE at 10 to 20 mph. Snow and ice accumulating 1 to 3 inches. Wednesday night: Cloudy early, becoming mostly clear after midnight. Low near 20. Winds NNW at 10 to 15 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Do the Math

The North Presbyterian Church of Flushing and Resilience NYC Meetup will host a free screening of climate change documentary “Do the Math” from 7-9 p.m. Following the screening, there will be a facilitated discussion about how to make our neighborhoods more sustainable and resilient. A resource guide with links to existing NYC programs will be provided. The Church is located at 25-33 154th St. in Flushing. For more information call 212- 319-3750. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Another round of snow, plus sleet, freezing rain target city

For the second time this week, the city is experiencing a bout of nasty winter weather. Read more: The Queens Courier

Cops looking into death of Jamaica 2-year-old

Police are investigating the death of a toddler after he was discovered unconscious at his Jamaica home Tuesday, the NYPD said. Read more: The Queens Courier

De Blasio won’t march in NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Mayor Bill de Blasio will not be marching in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, deciding to skip one of his city’s signature celebrations because the event organizers refuse to let participants carry pro-gay signs. Read more: NBC New York

NY Assembly Speaker Silver wants to delay Common Core tests

New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has called for at least a two-year delay in the use of Common Core-aligned tests for high-stakes decisions about teachers, principals or students.Read more: Fox New York

Philip Seymour Hoffman autopsy results expected Wednesday

The investigation into actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death continues as detectives await preliminary results of an autopsy, which are expected to be released by the Medical Examiner’s Office on Wednesday. Read more: ABC New York

NY State minimum wage to increase to $8 per hour starting Dec. 31


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Changes are coming to the state unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation systems, and there will be an increase in minimum wage.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the passage of the state budget in March, 2013, which included raises in the minimum wage to $8 per hour from $7.25, effective Dec. 31.

Previously, New York lagged behind 19 other states in minimum wage levels. By the end of 2014, the minimum wage will increase to $8.75 and then $9, by the end of 2015.

“Thanks to the persistence of the Assembly majority, this budget ensures that tens of thousands of hardworking, minimum-wage-earning New Yorkers will be receiving much-deserved and badly needed raises in each of the next two years,” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said.

Reforms coming to New York State unemployment insurance include enhancements to prevent fraud and aggressively require claimants to look for work, among other improvements. Also, there will be an increase in wage bases.

Currently, employers pay unemployment insurance contributions on each worker’s earnings up to a certain point called the wage base. The current wage base for 2013 is $8,500. The wage base will be adjusted on January 1 each year and increase to $13,000 by 2026.

After 2026, the wage base will be adjusted annually on January 1 to 16 percent of the state’s average annual wage.

The workers’ compensation system is under repair as well.

The system is under a business process re-engineering, focusing on improving the system’s processes, performance management and upgrading technology.

Right now over 30 states use a national electronic standard for worker’s compensation injury reporting. New York will join this growing trend of electronic injury reporting in 2014.

The state hopes that this move will reduce paper forms and duplicate filings, provide greatly expanded access to injury and payment data, simplify and speed up case processing, and allow the workers’ compensation board to better regulate the workers’ compensation system.

 

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Legislature leaves co-op, condo owners in the lurch


| mchan@queenscourier.com

City co-op and condo owners may have to ante up more in taxes after lawmakers said the state Legislature may not reconvene this year to pass promised relief.

“We had hoped the Legislature would meet and pass the annual abatement. It looks like we’re not going back,” said State Senator Tony Avella. “It’s going to be a huge cost to co-op and condo owners and a retreat from everything that we’ve worked on thus far.”

Co-op and condo community leaders said the state Legislature left them high and dry at the end of June, when lawmakers adjourned the session without extending the city’s J-51 program and its tax abatement program, which expired June 30. A bill that would put a halt to skyrocketing property tax valuations was also not addressed by the end of the session, they said.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the Assembly, Senate and Governor Andrew Cuomo had reached an agreement in July on “landmark” tax relief legislation that would be signed into law later this year when legislators return to Albany.

But lawmakers now say the Legislature may not meet before the year is out, meaning co-op and condo owners may have to brace for bigger tax bills in January.

“I’m very disappointed. They all agreed that a special session would be called, and it’s obviously not happening,” said Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village Owners, Inc. “This just goes to show that actions speak louder than words, especially when it comes to politics.”

Friedrich said his community could lose out on about $1 million, which he said would eventually come out of shareholders’ wallets.

“In an economic environment like this, people can’t afford these massive increases,” he said. “It would be crushing.”

The J-51 program gives owners partial property tax exemptions for capital improvements, and the abatement reduces the difference in property taxes paid by Class 2 co-op and condo properties and one, two and three family homes in Class 1 — which are assessed at a lower percentage of market value.

Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, said residents would pay up to an additional $1,200 a year in maintenance costs without the abatement.

“If the state of New York wants to drive affordable housing out of the city, it’s very easy,” he said. “Don’t renew the tax abatements. But if you want us to stay, do it, and it’s not that difficult. All it takes is going back to Albany and having a vote.”

The governor’s office did not respond to calls for comment.

According to a summary report released by the Department of Finance (DOF) this year, taxes are expected to rise by 7.5 percent for co-op owners and 9.6 percent for condo owners across the city. Last year, officials said, some co-op and condo valuations saw astronomical increases as high as 147 percent.

A pair of audits also released this year by the city comptroller’s office found the DOF at fault for causing upheavals in condo and co-op property values — a determining factor in property taxes — when it changed its formula for calculating them in fiscal year 2011-12.

‘Landmark’ tax relief on the way for co-op and condo owners


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Co-op and condo owners left in the lurch after state lawmakers originally closed the year’s session without passing key pieces of legislation will not be forsaken for long, officials pledged.

The Assembly, Senate and Governor Andrew Cuomo have reached an agreement on “landmark” tax relief legislation that will be signed into law later this year when legislators return to Albany, according to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

“In the short term, the city has issued tax bills for the current fiscal year based on the current tax abatement rates,” Silver said. “When the legislation is signed into law as promised by the governor, we anticipate that the new lower rates will be effective retroactive to July 1.”

Co-op and condo community leaders said the state Legislature left them “high and dry” last week after lawmakers adjourned the session without extending the city’s J-51 program and its tax abatement program. A bill that would put a halt to skyrocketing property tax valuations was also not addressed by the end of the session, they said.

The J-51 program gives owners partial property tax exemptions for capital improvements, and the abatement reduces the difference in property taxes paid by Class 2 co-op and condo properties and one-, two- and three-family homes in Class 1 — which are assessed at a lower percentage of market value.

Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, said residents would pay up to an additional $1,200 a year in maintenance costs without the abatement. Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village Owners, Inc., also counted his potential losses, saying his community would lose out on about $1 million.

But local elected officials said co-op owners need not worry about tax increases in the near future. The abatement, which expired June 30, will be continued until the State Legislature reconvenes later this year to pass a new plan, they said.

Assemblymember Ed Braunstein said it was “highly likely” the legislature would also pass his bill, which would increase abatements for middle class co-op owners from 17.5 percent to 25 percent this year and over 28 percent in three years.

“Co-op owners should be encouraged that relief is right around the corner,” Braunstein said.

Meanwhile, co-op and condo community leaders said they remain hopeful for a more permanent, long-term fix on annual valuation spikes.

According to a summary report released by the Department of Finance (DOF) this year, taxes are expected to rise by 7.5 percent for co-op owners and 9.6 percent for condo owners across the city, while owners of single-family homes will see an increase of 2.8 percent. Last year, officials said, some co-op and condo valuations saw astronomical increases as high as 147 percent.

A pair of audits released this year by the city comptroller’s office found the DOF at fault for causing upheavals in condo and co-op property values — a determining factor in property taxes — when it changed its formula for calculating them in fiscal year 2011-12.

Still, a proposed “8/30” valuation cap — which would have limited property tax increases to 8 percent per year or 30 percent over five years — was not passed, and Friedrich said he does not expect a solution to be reached for another year.

“I am optimistic, but actions do speak louder than words,” he said.

Is minimum wage going up?


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

In one of the country’s most expensive cities, workers have to make the most of every minimum – and New York politicians are now planning to “wage” war for their cause.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assembly Labor Committee Chair Keith Wright introduced legislation on January 30 to raise the minimum wage in New York from $7.25 to $8.50 an hour. The bill would also index the minimum wage to inflation to ensure it does not erode if prices rise in the future.

“Raising the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation is a matter of economic fairness, and our plan progressively rewards hardworking men and women who are trying to make ends meet,” said Wright. “According to the U.S. Census, nearly half of all Americans have fallen into poverty or joined the ranks of the working poor. This is not the American Dream. New Yorkers who work full time shouldn’t be poor. It’s as simple as that.”

The increase would come into effect in January of 2013, and the minimum wage would be indexed beginning in January of 2014, requiring an increase each year to adjust for inflation based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

The legislation would also increase pay for food service workers who receive tips to $5.86 an hour. This wage will also be indexed annually.
“No one who works full time should be poor and without hope,” said Assemblymember Francisco Moya. “We need to reward work and restore a sense of fairness. We need to raise the minimum wage. New York’s working families are seeing a decline in their purchasing power, and the question is no longer whether they can live on the minimum wage, it’s whether they can survive on the minimum wage.”

New York’s minimum wage has only increased by 10 cents over the past five years — rising along with the federal minimum to $7.25 an hour in 2009, before which it was $7.15. Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia have higher minimum wage rates than New York. Ten states have also already passed legislation indexing the minimum wage.

The public appears divided regarding the increase, with some apprehensive about the potential effect on the employment rate.

“I don’t know how raising the minimum wage is going to affect jobs and job creation,” said Pete Gorynski, a paint manufacturer from Bayside. “In terms of minimum wage jobs I think of unskilled workers and high school and college kids. They are stepping stones. I think raising the minimum wage may make these jobs less available.”

Others believe a raise in minimum wage is belated, and the people require more financial boosts in these exigent economic times.
“I think it is good to raise minimum wage,” said Sid Curry, a resident of Bushwick. “America has suffered terrible wage depressions since the 1970s, so we are overdue for this kind of thing.”