Category Archives: Albany

Extraordinary measures

The nation is beaming with praise for Cuomo, but his words also produced stark, every-man-for-themselves terror in city and county governments this week. Of course right now we’re too concerned about social distancing and groceries to be concerned about the fearsome quarterly budget powers which the governor may be appropriating for himself.

Welcome to EU-style “austerity,” and hopefully not also “Gov. Cuomo’s Little Book on How to Master Accents of the Five Boroughs.” Cuomo has personalized his approach to all this a great deal, as is his style. That isn’t necessarily a heartwarming state of affairs for those on the outskirts of the Empire.

Lawmakers are considering a return to Albany as early as Sunday, though with a scaled-down approach. After the positive virus results for a fourth member of the Assembly on Friday, they will be looking at ways for Democrats and Republicans to vote remotely if they are ill or have other issues that makes it unwise to return to the Capitol.

As water seeks its own level, power fills vacuums.

Into the wild

Today, the original list of 55 state parks and historic sites slated for closure were officially shut. For a while it looked like the legislature was going to get its act together and “save” them for another year, but everyone in Albany is so busy trying to make each other look bad that the parks just fell through the cracks. As Norbrook points out, you might as well kiss some of these facilities goodbye.

While certain concerned parties such as Novisuccinea chittenangoensis may be relieved, some other New Yorkers are going to attempt to pretend that this all never happened and use the parks anyway:

At Knox Park In East Aurora, the park is technically closed but that didn’t stop park goers like Sue Guindon from showing up. What did she encounter? “Not a thing, peace, not a problem…no gates closed, a regular day. I was hoping for that, I don’t want anything but a peaceful walk in the park as I do every single day when I come here myself, my friends or with my family.” Guindon says she will not back down and plans to keep coming to the park.

A lot of people know back routes or unofficial entrances to the closed parks. (I know a discreet route into one of my favorites, and admit I am tempted.) How hard is the state going to enforce no-trespassing rules? When do the drug dealers start to show up?

Does privatization come next? A Republican state senator is now push-polling about that. But on Long Island they already have a savior in the form of Citibank, which is coming to the rescue and playing out exactly what I feared — the haves will have their parks, and the have-nots will just have to sneak in like animals.

Every government, no matter what way it gains power (via elections, or just brute force), has to engage in what are known as “legitimizing activities.” Every president, king or emperor since the beginning of civilization has eventually had to come up with bread and circuses, pleasure parks, and other ways of keeping the people happy within the system and in awe of their largesse and majesty. To the people, the failure to keep providing these perks contributed to a sense of “legitimacy fail.”

The park closures are of course not the most serious thing we’re facing. But it makes you wonder. If the entire legislature and the governor are this impotent that they could not stop this from actually happening, then their days of legitimacy as a government are that much closer to the end. When do the people who are still living in New York (and not fleeing elsewhere) just simply stop paying attention to them, or to their successors?

For Ms. Guindon, I guess the answer is “now.”

Too easy

Sometimes it is too tempting to write a long blog post about something, even when you don’t have the time. Yesterday I was wondering if it would be worth the time and effort to write out a transcript of the entire relevant portion of the dustup between my state senator, John DeFrancisco, and the Brooklyn state senator Kevin Parker, previously notorious for hitting a photographer. I wanted to do this because most of the news coverage was focusing on Parker’s outburst, and no one was really examining the content and substance of DeFrancisco’s lengthy questioning of the black NY Power Authority nominee, Mark O’Luck.

It’s too bad that Parker throughout his career has involved himself in violent, over-the-top incidents, because even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Listening to DeFrancisco’s self-referential, irrelevant and oh-so-suburbanite obsession with a comment that O’Luck posted on the NY Times over a year ago, made me want to write a lengthy post on white privilege (if you have never heard the term, I suggest this excellent recent article).

Unfortunately, Parker in his usual discussion-killing manner went on to label DeFrancisco a “white supremacist” and another senator, Ruben Diaz, a homophobe (well, actually, he is one), further blotting out the reality that DeFrancisco does need to be added to the chain of fools in this incident with his cluelessness about the history of race relations in this country. (No, Sen. DeFrancisco, it’s really not all about the hurt feelings of Italian-American lawyers.)

However, now someone has saved me a lot of trouble:

Preston Fagan, president of the NAACP Syracuse/Onondaga chapter, said he hadn’t heard complaints that DeFrancisco was a racist. However, he said, “I will say he has a problem being a minority.”

Bwahahahah! So particularly true of Sen. DeFrancisco, who has noticeably turned into a world-class whiner ever since his party lost control, and this isn’t the first time. Thank you, Mr. Fagan, for making my “job” as a blogger easier.

You have the power

The latest in the Paterson business…

A key figure in the domestic abuse scandal bedeviling Gov. David A. Paterson told investigators that the governor phoned to enlist her help in quieting the accuser, according to a person with knowledge of her account.

“Tell her the governor wants her to make this go away,” Deneane Brown said Mr. Paterson told her, according to the person. Ms. Brown, a state worker, was friends with both the governor and the woman who says that a senior aide to Mr. Paterson roughed her up in a Halloween altercation.

“Women’s equality” and “women’s issues” are great abstract concepts for most politicians, but especially abstract to members of the NYC establishment (of which David Paterson is one – Harlem branch, although we could say the same for other prominent NYC based politicians and their staffs). When it comes to, uh, actual women in front of them, that’s a different ballgame altogether. Somehow, to them, women cause these troubles by their very presence around powerful men and their staffs — and so it is a “reasonable request” probably for these politicians, to ask that they (the women) “make it go away.”

So my question is: if women are really that powerful that they cause all these troubles and have the power to make them go away, what the hell are these women doing wasting their power in Albany, where men seem to have them in a box? (Don’t forget that, across many parts of the world, you even have the power to confound and bewitch whole legions of men simply by uncovering your hair! You don’t even have to be beautiful – you just have to have two X chromosomes, and boom — the hair is deadly!)

We’ve already established that women “have the power” – so why are we using it so ineptly? Why are we wasting it on participating in a dysfunctional game we can never win? Political power is not the same thing as holding political office, especially if the offices and the government are built on shifting sands.

Maybe it’s time to vacate Albany and get back to Seneca Falls, stat. Maybe it is time to make an increased effort to move the capital — literally — over to Seneca Falls: to warp this state’s center of political gravity just as much as our last two governors’ sense of their power has apparently been warped. Liz Krueger, Joan Christensen, leave that city on the Hudson immediately and call a general assembly of your female colleagues and their friends, right inside the roofless Wesleyan Church on Fall Street if necessary. It can’t be any more of a cold, uncomfortable and undignified meeting-place for New York women than the mighty Capitol is right about now.

You have the power to “make it go away.”

Reforming New York’s parks system

Now that the reality of threatened park closures has had a day to sink in, maybe it’s time to take the public conversation beyond the understandable cries of protest and think about the future.

The Post-Standard, like many papers around the state this morning, is looking into the costs of keeping the parks open, but the article (which doesn’t seem to be online?) doesn’t mention what the costs are – or if property taxes paid by the state for state park land are included in the tally. I assume they are included, but as Norbrook at TAP has pointed out, property taxes and the parks are not in the public consciousness and barely mentioned by the media. The way that NY’s parks system operate — or rather systems, since they’re run by two different agencies, Office of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Environment Conservation — is probably a mystery even to regular parks patrons.

Don’t get me wrong… we need to look at this list and ask for justification why some sites are on it at all. (I’d really like to know why Lorenzo Historic Site is only on the “shadow” secondary list and why Oriskany Battlefield gets the ax. If it’s purely because people would rather have their weddings there and the facilities fees are all that matters, then come out and say that so that those of us who care about historical preservation and education know where the state’s actual priorities are going forward. Or if it’s because Cazenovians have got the political donation cash for the right people and the Mohawk Valley doesn’t… whatever.)

People also have a lot of questions about what happens to these sites when they get shut down. What about safety and security? (If you’re compiling a list of New York’s Most Deadly Ex-State Parks, I’d say Clark Reservation will probably rank high.) What about the hydrofrackers and other private interests who might have designs on this land? What assistance might the state agencies be able to provide to any municipalities that have the means and political will to take over some of these properties? How about some answers instead of a brief apologetic press release? We’re all pretty guilty of not asking and answering these questions.