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Albany

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Thrice-Married Catholic Not Considered So Religious

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• Only 13 percent of responders think Rudy Giuliani is "of strong religious faith," according to a Time poll — and that's lower than Hillary's number (15 percent). But he once wanted to close down an art exhibit for blasphemy! [NYP] • "The very character of the Northeast is at stake" if greenhouse gases aren't reduced, a new study warns. Poised to vanish: Long Island lobsters and New York apples. What will thrive: smog, pollen, and floods. And, clearly, Claritin sales. [NYT] • An L.A.-to-London flight was diverted to JFK this morning because of a "suspicious passenger." Michael Chertoff's gut told him it was a harmless misunderstanding. [WNBC] • Shelly Silver still won't agree to bring the Assembly to the table for congestion-pricing talks — even as the desperate Mayor Bloomberg says he'll fly to Albany tomorrow. By now, we're just looking forward to Monday, when this mess will be over. [NYDN] • And, starting today, the MTA adds a "Mets express" to its 7 line: a one-stop service from midtown to Shea. It's just for an hour on game days, but funny thing: If they did it year-round, Willets Point might actually be habitable. [amNY]

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Will Silver Make Bloomberg's Traffic Dream Come True? He Just Might, Says Spokesman

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This week's consensus has been that Bloomberg's congestion-pricing plan is doomed because the legislature won't act in time to get the federal money, and that the legislature won't act in time because Shelly Silver isn't interested in playing ball. But are things changing? Today's Daily News reports that Silver late yesterday talked with both Governor Spitzer and State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, both congestion-pricing proponents, about the plan (separately, of course). And this morning we had an interesting conversation with Silver's spokesman. "To say he's willing to let this expire would not be an accurate thing to say," press secretary Dan Weiller told us. Oh, really? Hmm. —Alec Appelbaum Shelly Un-Congests Snag [NYDN] Earlier: Does Bloomberg Know His Congestion-Pricing Battle Is Lost?

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It's Not Easy Being a Steamroller

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• Eliot Spitzer admits to the Times that his feud with Joe Bruno has become "ugly" and "eclipse[d] all discussion of policy and legislation." Plus, all the personal attacks are upsetting Mrs. Spitzer, who now regrets her husband didn't go into real estate. [NYT] • The city is opening 290 "cooling centers" to help New Yorkers beat the heat; "I don't care how strong you are, you should take some precautions," Mayor Bloomberg declared, sounding even more like a testy grandmother than usual. [amNY] • Now this is getting interesting: The Department of Transportation under Janette Sadik-Khan is trying to hire Danish planner Jan Gehl as a consultant (as Daily Intel reported two weeks ago), and now word is that his proposals include banning cars from Times Square. [NYDN] • At the Phil Spector trial, the judge has allowed in a piece of blockbuster testimony from the producer's bodyguard — who says he's heard Spector say "all women should be shot in the head." [WNBC] • And a Manhattan psychologist, William Swan, is accused of groping a prospective assistant during an interview and showing her porn to boost her "assertiveness." In an apparent triumph, she's now assertive enough to sue and go to the press. [NYP]

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Does Bloomberg Know His Congestion-Pricing Battle Is Lost?

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Mayor Bloomberg spoke to the New York Building Congress this afternoon about the need to fund mass-transit improvements with the revenue from his congestion-pricing plan — and we've never seen him looking quite so gloomy. With seven days until Albany can either endorse or suffocate a bid for $400 million in federal start-up aid, Bloomberg began the address with his usual brio but wound down in obvious frustration. He downgraded his prepared text's "I believe the legislation will pass" to a meeker "I hope"; then, at the end, he croaked out a subdued "I need your help" before the applause. A source close to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, meantime, is talking up half-measure counterproposals and says the State Senate, allegedly in Bloomberg's corner, might not vote on the plan at all. We'd be depressed, too. —Alec Appelbaum Earlier: Daily Intel's coverage of Bloomberg's congestion-pricing plan

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Westchester Pol to Foil Mike's Plans?

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Uh-oh! Today's papers brought news of another nail in the coffin of Mayor Mike's big congestion-pricing plans: Westchester assemblyman Richard Brodsky's report deeming Bloomberg's proposal unworkable in its current form. There's only a week left for the legislature to act before the federal deadline to apply for some $400 million in start-up funds, and Brodsky's report is just one more, uh, roadblock. Could an Albany scold destroy our billionaire's big dreams? Actually, maybe not. Brodsky praised Bloomberg's gumption at this spring's public hearings on the plan, and he's told us in phone interviews that he admires any effort to improve mass transit — which money from congestion pricing would do.

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The Thrilla in Albany

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• The battle royale between Joe Bruno and Eliot Spitzer — and maybe, a little bit, the Albany Times Union — continues to heat up. Now the embattled State Senate majority leader says he'll activate a senate committee to investigate the guv — and start issuing subpoenas. [NYP] • Another week, another power outage: About 2,500 Upper East Siders lost their electricity again last night, this time after an underground fire. Blacking out 10021 twice in ten days can't be good for business. [Reuters] • Turns out that while he was preparing to decamp the GOP, Mike Bloomberg was privately bombarding the state Republicans with messages of support — including pledges to back some Dem-targeted senators' 2008 campaigns. Now that's triangulation. [NYT] • The new noise regulations have barely gone into effect, and already dozens of businesses have been busted — including a Mister Softee truck caught blasting the jingle in a residential area. [amNY] • And the Statue of Liberty is increasingly unlikely to make it onto the modern "seven wonders of the world" list currently being compiled. As the massive poll draws to a close with over 90 million votes cast, the poor green thing is languishing at the bottom, with the likes of the Kremlin and Stonehenge. [NYDN]

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Now the Press Is Apparently Out to Get Joe Bruno, Too

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You might remember a curious bit of Joe Bruno news from April: Around his birthday, a series of ads appeared in the Albany Times Union, exhorting the public to "Thank Joe Bruno" for lots of things, like "Tens of thousands of new jobs for our children." The ads were hilarious in their unabashed brownnosing, but the real kicker was that nobody would say who placed them. The politician — the state’s top Republican, who always seems an inch away from a massive scandal but never quite makes it over the edge — swore up and down it wasn’t him. Well, there’s something going on between Bruno and Times Union. Now, reports the Times, Bruno is going on the offense and asking the county D.A. to investigate the newspaper for extortion. According to the senator, the Times Union pressured him to take out more ads in its pages in exchange for favorable coverage. We just want to know what the paper threatened if he didn't comply — to keep reporting on the myriad federal, state, and county investigations against him? Bruno Says Newspaper Pressured Him to Buy Ads [NYT] Earlier: Who Loves Ya, Joe Bruno?

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Bruno Challenges Spitzer to Meet Him After School at the Flagpole

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You're always hearing about how Albany is broken and dysfunctional and doesn't work like any other legislative seat. And people are always saying that like it's a bad thing. It occurs to us this morning, however, that maybe it's not. Maybe Albany's dysfunction is refreshing: As Eliot Spitzer is siccing both the state attorney general and Albany County's D.A. on Joe Bruno for what the steamroller is alleging is Hevesian misuse of state aircraft and state troopers, Bruno isn't firing back with any of that "my distinguished opponent" crap. Here's the Senate leader yesterday, as quoted in the Times:
[Spitzer is] an overgrown rich spoiled brat who has tantrums all over the place [and is] too temperamental to be the chief executive of 19 million people. [He] does not understand that he is not a dictator, he is not a tyrant, he is not a king. … I grew up in the toughest part of Glens Falls, next to the boxcars, where kids would come up to you when you weighed 90 pounds and they weighed 120 and just punch you right in the mouth just because you were Italian, O.K., or just because you lived next to the boxcars, or just because they felt like it. That’s how I grew up, O.K.? So swing away.
Is it wrong that we're now hoping this turns into a fistfight? (Actually, yes, it probably is: We imagine Bruno would win. He comes from the tough part of Glens Falls, after all.) State-Financed Trips Weren't Improper, Bruno Says [NYT]

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No Congestion Pricing, But...

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• So Mayor Mike struck out on his congestion-pricing deal as Albany ended the legislative session. But while that plan got all the attention, Bloomberg got a slew of other projects passed: a child-care tax credit, a corporate tax slash, and more state funds for public housing. Huh. [NYP] • Dozens of pissed-off New Yorkers are being bussed to D.C. for a congressional hearing about the Feds’ performance monitoring air quality at ground zero. Jerry Nadler will be the congressman first to grill ex–EPA head Christine Todd Whitman. [amNY] • What Sunday’s pride parade may have lacked in middle-aged, middle-class gays, it more than made up for in a newly prominent demographic: religious groups. Jews, Roman Catholics, Buddhists, and others came dangerously close, in the words of a reveler, to “hijacking the parade.” [WCBS] • The weekend brought a mass gang arrest in Bushwick — 32 kids, the youngest 13 years old, collared on their way to attend a murdered friend’s wake. The gang is supposedly an offshoot of the Bloods, colorfully dubbed the Pretty Boy Family. [NYT] • And now that Fred Thompson seems to be a viable presidential candidate, let’s get all our political advice from Law & Order cast members. Sam Waterston — a.k.a. A.D.A. Jack McCoy — is also the face of the libertarian-flavored online movement Unity08, and he's ready to vote Bloomberg. [NYDN]

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Shelly Steals Mike's Big Day

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Is today Mike Bloomberg's big, free-at-last day of victory? Hardly. Tally up the politics of the last 24 hours, and a different man comes out on top: Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the most powerful man in New York most New Yorkers won't recognize. Late Monday, for instance, Assembly Democrats have gathered for a three-hour meeting to discuss Bloomberg's push for congestion pricing in Manhattan. Yesterday, the Post reports, many of Shelly's pols then pronounced the plan "likely dead for good." This is the man, remember, who killed the West Side Stadium and any number of Pataki's proposals. But right now it seems nothing's quite, finally dead till the legislative session ends on Thursday night — so it seems that Mayor Mike will spend at least a part of his first day as an even-more-non-presidential candidate on the phone, being nice to Shelly Silver. As the Times puts it in a well-timed front-page profile today, "Even popular New York City mayors must approach him on bended knee." Billionaires included. Mike's Auto-Cratic Plan 'Dead For Good': Pols [NYP] Silver Wields Power by Keeping Albany Guessing [NYT]

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Gay-Marriage Bill Passes, Fails, and Freaks Out a Bronx Dem

As expected, the New York State Assembly passed a gay-marriage bill yesterday. (Which is kind of a big deal, and fairly cool.) As expected, Joe Bruno announced that the bill won't even come up for a vote in the State Senate. (Which is par for the course, and which kills it for this year.) And then last night we received this press release in our in-box, which reminded us, though we often forget, that New York can be more like America than we'd like to think:

Statement by NYS Senator Rev. Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx)
On Today’s Assembly Vote for Homosexual Marriage
June 19, 2007 As a legislator of Hispanic origin, today I am very disappointed with those members of the Hispanic delegation in the State Assembly for supporting homosexual marriage in New York.

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Shelly Silver Loves Gays, Traffic; Joe Bruno Hates Both

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Who'd have thunk it. Just shy of a year after New York's top court ruled against same-sex marriages, the Assembly, today's Sun tells us, is set to pass legislation allowing it, making New York only the second state in which a legislative body has done so, after California. (Schwarzenegger vetoed California's bill; same-sex marriage in Massachusetts was ordered by the courts, not the legislature.) Shelly Silver hasn't taken a public stand on the question, but he's considered likely to vote for the measure, which is believed to have enough votes to pass. Spitzer has also said he'll sign. But don't book the catering hall yet, Mary: Joe Bruno and his Senate Republicans are, naturally, opposed. Which will no doubt doom the measure this year. Meantime, in the other big legislative news we city folk care about — well, aside from Times reporter Nick Confessore's limited nightlife options — it's Bruno and the Spitz who favor congestion pricing, and Silver's who's gonna hold up that one, it looks like. Gotta love Albany. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Assembly Set to Approve Gay Marriage [NYS]

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Is This the End of Braunstein?

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Faux firefighter Peter Braunstein will be sentenced today at noon, and our short citywide nightmare shall be over. Oh, jeez, will he write a book in jail? Clemency! [amNY] • The Matos-vs.-McGreevey matter keeps getting more colorful. Now Dina Matos is claiming her ex-husband is sabotaging not just her book sales but her charity work as well. Fellow fund-raisers snip that she's "taken her eye off the ball." [NYP] • The New York State Restaurant Association is suing, mostly on behalf of fast-food franchises like McDonald's and Burger King, for the right not to disclose calorie count on the menus. They're crying Big Government. [Crain's NY] • City Comptroller William Thompson is about to become housing activists' darling: He thinks the recent property-tax cut should trigger a rent freeze in stabilized apartments. [NYDN] • And Eliot Spitzer is apparently ruining Albany's nightlife. Not through regulation, mind you; it's just that his staffers are more coffee-shop people than bar people. Figures. [NYT]

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Shelly Silver Comes to Bury Congestion Pricing

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• As expected, Bloomberg's congestion-pricing plan might come to a halt at Shelly Silver's Assembly desk. Silver's steering committee called the idea "unpassable" yesterday. [NYP] • A federal judge has just reversed his own ban on NYPD's videotaping of protesters. He had previously ruled that the taping must have a "law enforcement purpose" other than political monitoring, which made all kinds of sense to us. [amNY] • JPMorgan Chase will move 6,000 New York City employees downtown, to a new tower on the current Deutsche Bank site. The old we're-going-to-Connecticut threat worked: The city is showering the company with perks and tax breaks to make the move. [NYDN] • The Times continues its bizarre pattern of subtly torpedoing Barack Obama with nonstories about his acquaintances, this time tying the candidate to a possibly unsavory businessman even as it admits "there is no sign that Mr. Obama … did anything improper." [NYT] • And police commish Ray Kelly wants $40 million worth of radiation sensors installed around the city, on highways, bridges, tunnels, and so on. Just, you know, in case. [Newsday]

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Anything God Can Do, Rudy Can Do Better

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• Giuliani yesterday unveiled the centerpiece of his presidential campaign, a "Contract with America"–style plan called — we kid you not — "The Twelve Commitments." Most of it is boilerplate, calling for low taxes, energy independence, security. Best part: America's Mayor unleashed it during a "speech attended by about 150 people." Fred Thompson leads in the polls. [NYP]

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Eliot Spitzer, Spliffroller

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It seems like only yesterday Governor Spitzer was against legalizing medical marijuana. Granted, we were a bit puzzled as to why. As New York's Geoffrey Gray reported last summer, candidate Spitzer's campaign staff had long been in talks with the pro-ganja lobby, and the man himself isn't a stranger to the substance. (He has fessed up to smoking while a student at Princeton, "with pride, at the time.") Now that even the stodgy Connecticut legislature is hip to palliative pot, however, Spitzer's making another about-face: Word is he might be signing legalizing legislation within the next two weeks. Getting the bill through the State Senate should be a breeze — even Joe Bruno, who's a cancer survivor, supports it. But what's with the indecisiveness, the lack of focus, the erratic lurches from pragmatism to paranoia and back? This is not like our Eliot at all. Hell, if we didn't know any better… Medical Pot Weeds Way Thru Albany [NYDN] Related: Spitzer Chokes on Pot Deal [NYM]

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Puerto Rico, You Lovely Island

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• The fallout from Sunday's Puerto Rican Day parade included 208 arrests, a huge increase from last year's 50 or so. The police insist all but ten of the arrested were "gang members." [NYT] • First Connecticut was on the brink of legalizing medical marijuana; now New York is, too. The legislation may be heading for the governor's desk within ten days, and Spitzer, who earlier opposed the idea, now says he's open to it. [NYDN]

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Spitzer Nostalgic for Misty Watercolor Days of Steamrolling

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Remember "On Day One, everything changes"? Or "I am a fucking steamroller"? Or "Push too hard and we'll push back"? Halcyon days, all of them! How young we were! As the legislative session draws to a close — there are two weeks left — the Times' Empire Zone blog catches Eliot Spitzer in an unusually wistful mood. "In an ideal world," admits the guv, "I'd like to have a repeat of January and February." Instead, the Albany he set out to revolutionize has backslid into its usual pattern: It will either approve a heap of unrelated issues in one sitting and call it a year, or it won't. It's the sort of thing to depress a steamroller. Which is why, perhaps, it's telling that the governor's schedule for tonight includes a stop at Joe Bruno's horse farm for dinner. Could the Spitz want to make nice with those he pissed off, so as to get things done? Maybe. But we hope they're just going to re-create the spirit of late January by yelling at each other across the table. As Legislative Session Wanes, So Does Leaders’ Momentum [NYT]

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Mayor Mike Is Cruising Toward a Traffic-Fee Win

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Okay, we're prepared to make a prediction: Marvelous Mike Bloomberg is going to win his congestion-pricing battle. Spitzer and the Bush administration are both on his side, State Senate leader Joe Bruno has said nice things, and at the Assembly hearing on his plan — held today at the Bar Association Building in midtown, and the only hearing scheduled on the matter before the legislative session ends later this month — Bloomberg more than held his own. He successfully parried the major misgivings about the plan — that its costs would mostly fall on moderate-income 718-ers and that its cameras would compromise personal privacy — and urged the state to join his bid for some $400 million in federal setup funds before the late-summer deadline.

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Maxwell Wheat Will Not Be L.I. Poet Laureate

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• Nassau County had its first poet laureate all picked out: Maxwell Corydon Wheat Jr. Then they discovered his poem that begins "Males and one woman / Sip coffee mornings in the White House, / Talk of desires about Iraq." So that's a no. Good call, incidentally: The poem is beyond awful. [NYT] • Meet Dr. Alain Kaloyeros, a SUNY-Albany nanotech scientist who happens to be the best-remunerated state employee in New York. After last week's record pay hike, his various salaries add up to an annual windfall of $947,538. Not that anyone's counting. [NYP] • Nothing like a crazed-insurance-broker yarn: Noel Lauria bought a bow and fired arrows out his UES window, landing a stray one through a neighbor's terrace door. His explanation to the cops: "I'm turning 40." [NYDN] • Oh, goody, another "edgy" magician dangling over Times Square. The ingredients in the current mess: a guy named Criss Angel, a glass box, 6,000 pounds of concrete, and a crappy A&E show to promote. Go concrete! [amNY] • And over the weekend, all manner of deformed, tattooed, and hairy freaks played baseball. Also, there was a Coney Island charity game, with the Sideshow By the Seashore performers battling the Cyclone staff. See what we did there? [Metro NY]

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