May 21, 2022

NYC Mayor Adams heading to Albany next week for last ditch legislative push

With the legislative session drawing to a close, Mayor Adams and at least one of his top deputies will visit Albany on Tuesday to lobby lawmakers on a slate of his stalled policy priorities — including his hope to keep control of the city’s public school system.

Adams and his team will sit down with State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers), Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and other key lawmakers to make a case for why the Legislature should greenlight the mayor’s Albany agenda before the session ends June 2, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Topping the list for Adams is extending mayoral control of the city’s public schools and allowing speed cameras on city streets to operate 24/7.

Some lawmakers have argued that the two issues remain outstanding this late in the session because of a lack of engagement from Adams’ administration. As first reported by the Daily News, the push for letting speed cameras run around-the-clock was also hampered by Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez spending a recent meeting with legislators pushing for a program component that had already been sidelined.

Adams has only visited Albany once previously this year. Still, mayoral spokesman Fabien Levy disputed the laments about a lack of interaction and voiced optimism about the prospects of Adams’ late legislative dash.

“We’re confident that the Legislature will agree with Mayor Adams that now is the time to prioritize New Yorkers’ needs,” Levy said in a statement. “Any unnamed individuals making claims that our team has not been active in Albany are simply trying to spin a false narrative that fits their agenda.”

Underscoring the importance of the issue for Adams, Education Chancellor David Banks is expected to join him for the Tuesday meetings focused on mayoral control of schools, sources said.

Meantime, Department of Transportation officials declined to say Friday if Rodriguez was expected to join Adams for the speed camera meetings.

City schools have been under mayoral control for the past two decades, and proponents say the authority makes the behemoth system run smoother while reducing waste and corruption.

The alternative to mayoral control is to have the Big Apple’s hundreds of public schools overseen by the Board of Education and a network of local school boards — a decentralized system that critics say led to corruption, inefficiency and poor outcomes for students in past iterations.

Earlier this year, Gov. Hochul floated giving Adams four years of school control, covering his entire first term.

But Adams has since run into roadblocks, in part because Albany lawmakers have taken seriously concerns raised by parent groups who want to modify the leadership structure of the Panel for Education Policy, the governing body of the Department of Education.

Albany leaders have said they expect to give Adams school control, though it remains unclear how many years he’ll get and whether it will come with some strings attached.

Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz (D-Queens) said Friday she’s inclined to support a two-year extension of mayoral control. However, in a sign of the potential headaches still facing Adams, Cruz said she would like to see it paired with the City Council getting future say over whom the mayor selects for schools chancellor.

“If this is to happen, it couldn’t happen in a vacuum,” she said.

On the speed camera issue, lawmakers have already dealt a blow to Adams’ agenda by saying there’s not enough time left in the session to approve so-called “home rule,” which would allow the city to install as many cameras as it wants, wherever it wants, and keep them running for however long it wants. Despite the lack of appetite in Albany, Rodriguez kept pressing lawmakers for “home rule” during a meeting on May 3 that one DOT source described as a “total f— up.”

With home rule out of the picture, the focus has shifted to passing a bill that would keep the cameras under state control, but allow them to operate 24/7. Currently, speed cameras in the city can only operate in school zones between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. on weekdays — and safe street advocates say that has exacerbated traffic violence as drivers tend to speed more at night.

A final legislative item that may be on the table during Adams’ Tuesday visit is 421a, a tax break for real estate developers that expires June 15.

Proponents of the tax break argue it helps incentivize affordable housing construction, while opponents have said it’s an unnecessary giveaway to wealthy developers. Adams has positioned himself somewhere in the middle of those two camps, painting 421a as a flawed program and calling for it to be replaced with a revamped version favored by Hochul.

With Clayton Guse

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