• In the wake of the Great Subway Flood, city-council members are demanding that the MTA spend some $300 million to provide cell service on subway platforms — so that the transit agency can send riders jumbled, unintelligible text messages in the event of delays. [Metro NY]
• The daughter of two prominent NYU professors was discovered dead in a university-owned apartment in Washington Square Village. If it's a homicide, expect it on Law & Order when the new season starts. [amNY]
• The newest chapter in the fast-developing Spitzer scandal: The State Ethics Commission, which definitely has subpoena power, has joined the State Senate in requesting the documents from the Bruno investigation. Not looking good. [amNY]
The latest news from Albany finds the principals in the Spitzer-Bruno-Cuomo battle defining and refining their positions. Last night, the governor finally abandoned what New York's Steve Fishman called his "silly business-as-usual tactic" and deigned to hand-feed his side of the story to the Daily News. New York's Hometown Paper reports today that Joe Bruno's constant requests to use state aircraft were well known in Albany even before Day One; they became "almost a punch line" after Spitzer inauguration, when, the governor says, people would "just roll their eyes." Still, Spitzer didn't know his own top aides were scheming to expose Bruno, he told the News — and even if he did, the State Senate doesn't have subpoena power over the executive branch anyway. You may notice that these three statements clash with each other slightly, but, hey, he's new at this weaseling-out-of-tight-spots thing. He'll get better.
• With the Spitzer camp circling the wagons, it's Joe Bruno's hour, and he's taking full advantage of it: The State Senate leader called for multiple investigations into the administration, vowing, "This is not going to go away." [NYP]
Governor Spitzer finally abandoned his silly business-as-usual tactic today, giving up the “I’m going to get back to doing the people’s business” that invariably means something is amiss. The Republican-led State Senate had suggested that it might act like a real legislative body, one with oversight responsibilities and subpoena powers, and investigate whether the governor knew that a top aide was tracking Senate leader Joe Bruno’s use of state vehicles. And Spitzer finally broke his silence on the burgeoning scandal to warn the senator that, in effect, the senators shouldn't punch above their weight. Never one to be outlawyered, the governor has apparently been reading up on the state constitution, and he charged in a statement that New York's Senate does not have the constitutional authority to investigate the executive branch. In other words, he seemed to say that he won't cooperate with any investigation and will instead invoke an Empire State version executive privilege. Whether the potential drama of a constitutional showdown will, in fact, entice the Republican Senate remains to be seen.
In a nutshell: In an effort to score political points by claiming his nemesis, Joe Bruno, was inappropriately using state resources (aircraft, cars, troopers) to travel to political events, Eliot Spitzer, or at least people working for Eliot Spitzer, inappropriately used state resources (the state police) to carry out their oppo research. A.G. Andrew Cuomo released a report yesterday saying so, and saying, incidentally, that Bruno hadn't actually done anything wrong. Spitzer indefinitely suspended one aide, transferred another out of the governor's office, and denied any knowledge of what they were up to; Republicans are skeptical he was really so oblivious. So much for being the White Knight, eh?
In last week's New York, Steve Fishman profiled the governor and examined his (many) feuds with other state officials, most notably Bruno. There's lots of fun foreshadowing.
• Governor Spitzer has dismissed one top aide and suspended another for (a) essentially spying on Joe Bruno and (b) concocting a cover-up for it. But what did Spitzer know, and when did he know it? [NYT]
• In the meantime, Bruno's vacation is ruined anyway: The Legislature has agreed to reconvene on Thursday to begin discussing a "compromise" on congestion pricing. [NYDN]
• The so-called YouTube debate on CNN last night wasn't just an exercise in cross-branding; it delivered some full-on madness, including a talking snowman grilling Hillary Clinton on climate change and a Second Amendment question from a man holding a gun. [NYP]
• Eighteen years after pleading guilty to sex crimes — and then denying his guilt, and then having a movie made about him — convicted child molester Jesse Friedman may be vindicated. A new hearing will introduce evidence that police may have tampered with a young accuser. [amNY]
• And, Newt Gingrich says Mike Bloomberg's "entire basis of survival is paying $91 a vote" in 2005. Remind us what Newt Gingrich's basis for survival is again? [NYS]
As Geoffrey Gray warned us earlier, there's now a deal for congestion pricing. From City Room, the Times's metro blog:
“We have a deal,” Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate majority leader, just told reporters in Albany. “Like any deal, like any arrangement, its [sic] subject to the definitive word ending up on paper. As we speak, we are drafting paper, press release, with the governor’s office, with the Assembly.”
Asked if the deal would still qualify for a grant of $500 million in federal financing, Mr. Bruno said: “We are told if we get this there today, we will be one of the nine considered.”
Today is the deadline for Albany to get a congestion-pricing deal done, as Mayor Bloomberg has consistently said, and at 5:30 p.m. there's still no legislation. But something still could — indeed, still well might — come together before midnight, which seems about right for our dysfunctional state capital. At City Room, the Times' local-politics blog, statehouse reporter Nick Confessore has been chronicling a day spent trailing officials like Bloomberg and Joe Bruno hoping, usually in vain, for a comment:
The meeting was closed to reporters, who camped outside a locked conference room door, pressing their ears — and tape recorders — to the glass in the hopes of catching an earful of congestion-pricing gossip. (Such is the exciting life of the Albany statehouse reporter.)
Eliot Spitzer's epic feud with Joe Bruno has been lots of fun for headline writers and politics watchers, if perhaps not so good for Albany's effective functioning. But here's a funny thing: As Steve Fishman reports in this week's cover story, their big fight didn't even have to happen. In the last days of the legislative session, about a month ago, Bruno approached Spitzer with the idea of a non-aggression pact: He'd support the governor's cherished campaign-finance proposal if the governor would agree not to campaign against Senate Republicans. The plan to reduce the money flowing into state politics is “Spitzer’s obsession,” Bruno told Fishman, but the Republican leader wouldn't disarm in the face of a wealthy, powerful governor determined to break the GOP's hold on the Senate. Under Bruno's deal, Spitzer would get the campaign-finance reform he wanted, Bruno would get protection, and both would be able to move forward on four or five pieces of legislation caught in the crossfire. But Spitzer would agree merely to congratulate the Republicans if they helped push his agenda. “That’s not good enough,” Bruno told him, according to Fishman's source. And a few days later they were at war.
The Steamroller in the Swamp [NYM]
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 AppelbaumShelly Un-Congests Snag [NYDN]
Earlier:Does Bloomberg Know His Congestion-Pricing Battle Is Lost?
• 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]
• Hidden among other traffic-reducing measures in New York's application for federal congestion-pricing funds is a doozy: Just Stay Home. One of the proposed changes is "telecommuting as a travel demand management strategy." [Metro NY]
• The Post, firmly on Joe's side in the Bruno-Spitzer battle, reports that Spitzer's aides pretty much begged anyone with a badge to investigate the state senator (including, unsuccessfully, "at least one New York City D.A." — how many of those do we have?). [NYP]
• Despite "experts" insisting that the Bancroft-Murdoch deal is done, the Dow Jones board will be meeting with Ron Burkle today. In the meantime, Journal defections start: A top editor is moving to Business Week. [NYT]
• The first week the new noise regulations were in effect prove one thing: We're a city of nasty little tattletales. The top complaint to 311 — almost half of the calls — concerned not construction clatter or Mister Softee but noisy neighbors. [NYDN]
• And here's a free mobile service that puts Google Maps to shame. Should you ever find yourself lost in the Manhattan grid with nowhere to relieve yourself, mizpee.com will send you the address of the "closest, cleanest" restroom. You know, in case you lose the ability to walk into a hotel lobby on your own. [NYDN]
• 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]
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?
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.
• Crime is drastically down so far this year, with the city on track to set a record in 2007: the fewest murders since the police began keeping track in the sixties. An NYU prof credits an NYPD program that sends crowds of rookie cops to bad neighborhoods — and those rookie cops would be the ones they're now paying $25k. [NYDN]
• Is Joe Bruno the Alan Hevesi of the sky? The state's top Republican is under investigation for allegedly steering state contracts to associates; now Spitzer is threatening to look into Bruno's use of state aircraft — and police escorts — to fly to fund-raisers in New York City. [NYP]
• Those new New York City condoms hit 100 of New York's 325 senior centers last week. The remaining 225 centers — save for seven apparently run by prudes — will get their rubbers this week, along with pamphlets on HIV prevention. [NYP]
• Bloomberg's new noise code went into effect yesterday. See, isn't the city nice and quiet now? [NYT]
• And A-Rod's wife wore a tank top to yesterday's game bearing the words "Fuck You" on the back. Perhaps it would have been better to convey this message at home? [NYP]
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]
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]