Miranda warning: Cyn slams Andy in Village

Cynthia Nixon was in full attack mode against Governor Cuomo at the Village forum. She earned steady applause for the platform positions she stated in her remarks, as well as for many of her answers during the question-and-answer period. Photos by Tequila Minsky

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | A forum for candidates running for statewide office in September’s Democratic primaries saw an enthusiastic crowd of more than 200 people pack the P.S. 41 auditorium in Greenwich Village on Monday night.

Listed on the agenda for the event — which had a 6:30 p.m. start — were candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and comptroller. However, right as the forum was beginning, The New Yorker broke the shocking story online detailing Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s history of physical abuse toward multiple women. People in the audience were stunned to read about it on their phones. Within minutes of the forum’s ending around 9:30 p.m., Schneiderman issued a statement announcing his resignation from office.

Erik Coler, the president of the Village Independent Democrats — one of the 10 local political clubs that sponsored the event — was the forum’s co-moderator.

Asked later if Schneiderman or a surrogate had been planning to attend, Coler said, “We had a rep [for Schneiderman] coming. Twenty minutes prior to the forum, I received an e-mail telling me he was unable to attend but did not give a reason. They must have known that the article was going to drop about an hour before. No one else was running for the Democratic A.G. primary at that time.”

Apart from that deeply disturbing news, the evening’s buzz was all about Cynthia Nixon and Jumaane Williams, who are running for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively — and pointedly running to the left of the incumbents, Andrew Cuomo and Kathy Hochul.

Nixon, in her remarks, described growing up on the Upper West Side and in Yorkille as a public-school kid with a divorced single mother. Without going into greater detail, she said, “My father was very troubled and our home was often a very troubled place.”

Her own three children all either attended or are still going to public school. She said it was her concern about school overcrowding — one of her kids, at one point, was being taught in a trailer — that led her to get involved with schools and sparked her activism, in general.

Nixon started acting at age 12 and, of course, later went on to fame in “Sex and the City.”

She slammed the New York school system for being “the second most unequal in the country,” noting that there is a $10,000 per-pupil funding gap between students in the wealthiest versus poorest school districts.

She blasted Cuomo for being too much of a centrist — or worse — charging, “He has governed like a Republican and he has handed over power to the Republicans.”

She accused the governor of allowing the Independent Democratic Caucus to “hijack the state Senate.” Early last month, Cuomo finally compelled the I.D.C. — which had caucused separately from the rest of the Senate Democrats — to dissolve and commit its members to caucusing with the rest of the Dems.

Speaking more broadly, she said that, under Cuomo, New York’s infrastructure, cities, towns and rural areas have been “decimated.”

While the governor’s $31 million campaign war chest is filled by “developers, landlords and big business,” only “0.1 percent” of his contributions are from small donors, she claimed.

“We are not accepting a dime of corporate money,” she declared. “This is a campaign that belongs to the people of New York State. … We will take on the developers and landlords that make New York unaffordable,” she vowed.

She also pledged, if elected, to pass single-payer healthcare for New York, and to commit to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 at the latest.

“We are going to legalize marijuana and stop the mass incarceration of people of color,” she promised.

On the issue of undocumented immigrants, she said, “We are going to make New York a real sanctuary state, not just rhetorically — with driver’s licenses for all.”

She also said she backs closing Rikers Island, adding, “We need to reduce the prison population, reduce marijuana arrests and expunge records.”

As for the subways, she said Cuomo “has done a lot of cosmetic things,” such as sprucing up stations, but that the M.T.A. must do more to increase handicap accessibility throughout the system.

“When we renovate stations, we must make this a priority,” she stated.

Jeannine Kiely pressed Cynthia Nixon to commit to saving the Elizabeth St. Garden, if elected. But Nixon said both green space and affordable housing are needed.

Jeannine Kiely, the founder of Friends of Elizabeth St. Garden, asked Nixon, if elected, if she could be counted on to save the Little Italy garden and stop an affordable housing project from being built there, and if she would try to convince Mayor Bill de Blasio to drop the housing plan. Nixon actually is a neighbor, living a few blocks north of there.

“I live on Elizabeth St.,” Nixon said. “It is a beautiful garden. I love to go by it. I don’t have a position on it.” She said the loss of green space is “a major change” that deserves careful review, “but it does have to be balanced with the need for affordable housing.”

She noted that four years ago she stood with Village community activists and preservationists when they fought to keep New York University from being able to use strips of parkland along LaGuardia Place, Mercer St. and Bleecker St. for its superblocks expansion project.

“I was part of the battle for [those] green spaces — we lost,” she said.

Livvie Mann, of Rise and Resist and, more locally, the Bedford Downing Block Association, pointedly asked Nixon if she planned to back the “anti-I.D.C. candidates” running against Simcha Felder and Co.

“The I.D.C. members need to be challenged,” Nixon said. However, when pressed by Mann as to whether she would endorse their opponents, Nixon said she was not prepared to say if she would do that yet.

Jumaane Williams said, if elected, he would be a needed progressive foil against Governor Cuomo, assuming Cuomo wins re-election. The crowd was supportive of him, cheering him on his positions on the issues, as well as for his upbeat fight-the-power spirit.

Williams, the deputy leader of the City Council, started off by firing up the crowd by shouting into the microphone, “It’s time!” and having the audience shout back, “Let’s go!”

“I am a community organizer by training,” the Brooklyn councilmember said. He noted he is the child of immigrants from Grenada, and that his brother had been an undocumented immigrant. He added that he also has Tourette syndrome, which causes him sometimes to make involuntary movements.

“For the past nine years, I’ve been trying to cause as much as trouble as humanly possible,” he said.

As for being lieutenant governor, he said he has “a completely different view. I don’t want to be a rubber stamp. I don’t want to be a parrot,” he said. “I want to be the people’s lieutenant governor.

“This governor has a progressive cloak that he puts on when it’s convenient,” he said. “Now that’s it’s election time, that jacket is on tight!

Indeed, Nixon is being credited with pushing Cuomo to the left on the issues.

“Someone has to shine a light on these things,” Williams stressed, clearly indicating, if elected, he would be a foil to the governor, whenever needed. “This position was created to be independent,” he explained.

For example, in response to a question on fracking, he noted that, while having banned fracking here, Cuomo is still allowing fracked gas to be brought into this state from Pennsylvania.

“I don’t want anybody to vote for me because I’m a black man,” he said at another point. “Identity politics is important, but I want people to vote for me based on my nine-year record.” That said, he added, “I do think being a black man is important, being a child of immigrants is important, having a brother whose brother was undocumented is important, having Tourette’s is important.”

Williams said he has passed the second-most amount of legislation in the Council after only the Council speaker.

Village District Leader Keen Berger praised Williams for protesting and getting arrested on Jan. 11 when immigrant activist Ravi Ragbir was about to be deported after a “check-in” with ICE down at Federal Plaza.

“What can we do to stop the deportations?” she asked him.

“If you are currently in your comfort zone, you are not doing enough,” he said, explaining why he refused to take an A.C.D. (adjournment in contemplation of dismissal) and instead is fighting the arrest charge in court.

He chided any Democrats in blue states who supported Trump in the election and “allowed this ‘orange man’ to be put in place. .. Any blue just won’t do,” he stressed.

Kathy Hochul, who was formerly a congressmember, said governing New York State is no easy task.

In a candidate twofer, Lieutenant Governor Hochul spoke on behalf of both herself and Cuomo. She started off by noting the challenge of being a statewide politician in this state.

“Representing the state of New York is very much like representing the state of Texas and San Francisco at the same time,” she noted. When Cuomo backed marriage equality or the SAFE Act — the country’s toughest assault-weapons ban — after the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, he lost votes Upstate, she noted.

“Five years later, there are still anti-SAFE gun signs on the lawns,” she noted of Upstate communities.

As for fracking, she said, “A lot of people Upstate saw this as their ticket to prosperity.”

“I am a fighter,” she declared, adding that, as the only woman currently in a statewide political office, she is a strong advocate for “equal pay for equal work.”

On abortion rights, she noted, “I am a champion for choice — that’s not an easy thing to do outside of New York City.”

Under Cuomo, New York has the “most generous” family-leave program in the country, she noted.

Kathy Slawinski, another V.I.D. member, challenged Hochul on a statement she made in 2007, when Hochul was Eerie County clerk. Then-Governor Eliot Spitzer had proposed giving illegal immigrants driver’s licenses without their having to produce a Social Security card. Hochul responded that if illegal immigrants applied for drivers’ licenses in her jurisdiction, she would send them to the sheriff’s office for questioning.

“This was over 11 years ago,” Hochul answered Slawinski. “We had a threat of terrorism. We had just come off 9/11. That today is not a position I would take again.”

Asked by a questioner if there were issues she differs on with Cuomo, Hochul thought for a second, then said he could have focused earlier on the problems besetting public housing.

Nat Johnson, also from V.I.D., noted that Cuomo shut down the Indian Point nuclear reactor, yet “then gave $250 million to reactors Upstate.”

“Indian Point was too close to New York City, it was dangerous,” Hochul said. “It was aging, it had too many leaks, it time to shut it down.” Meanwhile, the Upstate reactors are not near large population centers, she noted.

“By the year 2030, we will have 50 percent renewable energy,” she noted. “I am proud that New York State is leading on this issue.”

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli earned cheers when he reported that the state’s pension program is 90 percent funded.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli told the crowd he had driven down from Albany just for the Village town hall.

“The key issues we’re facing today are transparency and accountability,” he said of government, in general, adding that the comptroller’s office was created “to follow the money.”

He stressed his independence, noting that the comptroller is “the most independent position in state government,” and that his office does up to 600 audits of state agencies each year.

The comptroller’s office also does reports, having recently done ones on the opioid crisis as well as obesity. It’s also the trustee for the state’s pension programs, which he noted, are “over 90 percent funded,” one of only four states that can boast that. He added that was why he opposed New York having a constitutional convention — which could have resulted in changes in the state’s pension system — stating, “I’m glad it went down.”

A member of the Grand Street Democrats club asked DiNapoli if the state has reimbursed former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for any of his legal fees in his ongoing corruption court trials, and DiNapoli bluntly answered, “No.”

Ann Heaney, a V.I.D. member, asked if the state pension fund is being divested from fossil fuels, and DiNapoli said that’s the goal, but it has to be done gradually, so as not to hurt the fund.

“Short-term, it would hurt pensioners” to sell off fossil-fuel funds, the comptroller explained. “We have to balance it. I’m going to approach it in a very deliberate way. The average pension in New York is $22,000. We can’t just do what feels good.”

Afterward, one veteran V.I.D. member, remarking on the candidates’ performances, said they all did very well. Nixon and Williams, though, are definitely “long shots” in the primary elections, in his view. As always, it will boil down to the turnout at the polls.

“We’ll see how the Left comes out,” he said.

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