Dianne Morales’ beautiful mess — Council boosts housing vouchers — Racketeering charge in Trump Org probe?

The staff drama engulfing Dianne Morales’ mayoral campaign ratcheted up quite a few notches last night. The left-leaning candidate fired four staffers who had been involved in an effort to unionize campaign workers, and the aides’ union declared plans for an immediate work stoppage in response.

There’s a lot going on here, as the one-time progressive favorite’s campaign has descended into accusations and counter-accusations of mistreatment, racial bias, and concerns about wages and working conditions.

According to the union, four union leaders — three Black women and a queer white woman — were given the ax by email “without reason.” “Effective immediately our union will begin a work stoppage as a collective action in solidarity with our members who deserve to be treated with respect,” the group said. One organizer for the campaign called for Morales to suspend her mayoral campaign over the controversy.

Morales disputes this, and says she fully supports her staffers’ effort to unionize. She said she fired two staffers over “allegations related to racially based biases and sexual harassment claims,” and made further unspecified “adjustments” to the campaign team. This all comes after her campaign manager, Whitney Hu, resigned on Tuesday, saying Morales declined to terminate an employee Hu felt was mistreating the staff.

Morales says she’ll press forward despite the implosion that threatens to undermine her public message of inclusion. In fact, she says the conflagration is testing her ability to react to a crisis as mayor, telling NY1 Thursday night: “This is sort of a beautiful mess here.”

IT’S FRIDAY. Enjoy the long weekend. Got tips, suggestions or thoughts? Let us know … By email: [email protected] and [email protected], or on Twitter: @erinmdurkin and @annagronewold

WHERE’S ANDREW? In Albany with no public events scheduled.

WHERE’S BILL? Appearing on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: New York Playbook will not publish on Monday, May 31. We’ll be back on our normal schedule on Tuesday, June 1.

DAYS TO THE PRIMARY: 25 (And today is the deadline to register to vote.)

N.Y.C. Lawmakers Take Dramatic Step to Stem Homelessness,” by The New York Times’ Andy Newman: “For nearly a decade, New York City has struggled to help homeless people find apartments of their own, as rents hovered in the stratosphere and the number of people stuck in shelters surged past 60,000. So on Thursday, the City Council took its most dramatic step in years to address the city’s affordable housing crisis, voting overwhelmingly to expand a subsidy program in ways that could make apartments affordable to tens of thousands of people who are homeless or threatened with eviction. ‘It is my hope that this will give people an opportunity to have a solid roof over their heads for them and their families,’ City Councilman Stephen Levin, the bill’s main sponsor, said during the vote, adding that it would be ‘an important bill in the lives of many New Yorkers.’”

Opponents hit Adams over boasting of PBA support, by POLITICO’s Erin Durkin, Madina Touré, and Amanda Eisenberg: Mayoral candidate Eric Adams came under fire from opponents Thursday after touting his past support from the city’s police union in a recent interview — despite saying he didn’t want the union’s backing this time around. The Brooklyn borough president, in an interview with the Jewish publication Mishpacha, cited endorsements by the Police Benevolent Association for his past campaigns as evidence of his pro-law enforcement credentials. “People say that I have attacked the police, but that is a contradiction to the reality,” Adams said. “I have always been endorsed by the PBA. The rank-and-file members know that I believe in public safety and in social justice — they go together.”

— Adams was endorsed by Ashley Sharpton, the daughter of Rev. Al Sharpton. And he says he’ll cry if the elder Sharpton doesn’t back him.

— Andrew Yang released a plan to staff up the NYPD with more detectives and officers dedicated to fighting gun violence.

Where Did All the Yellow Cabs Go?” by Curbed’s Jack Denton: “What if the Statue of Liberty disappeared overnight? Or, suddenly, there were no more bodegas, bagel shops, pizzerias? A New York icon, as thoroughly ingrained into city life as any of those, has almost vanished before our eyes this year. The taxi has been Raptured. Two-thirds of our yellow street-hail cabs are gone. Before the pandemic, some 10,500 yellow cabs — about 80 percent of the total number of taxi medallions issued by the city — were in the streets each day. During the peak of lockdown, in April 2020, that number was 982. ‘Our business dropped about 90 percent in a matter of three weeks,’ says Spyros Messados of Queens Medallion Leasing. ‘Drivers were scared about getting out there, and there was no one moving around the city anyway, so it wasn’t economically feasible.’ Even as the city has begun to come back to something approximating normal, the number of cabs has not.”

As Yang’s New York Ties Are Questioned, He Cites Anti-Asian Bias,” by The New York Times’ Katie Glueck: “Andrew Yang, a son of Taiwanese immigrants and a leading candidate for mayor of New York City, took on issues of race and identity in extraordinarily personal terms on the campaign trail this week, seeking to reframe some criticisms of his candidacy as questions of his Americanness. Mr. Yang, a former presidential candidate, has in this race spoken out often and forcefully against a spike in anti-Asian violence that has alarmed many city residents. But his efforts to condemn anti-Asian racism entered a new phase this week, as he criticized unnamed opponents for questioning his New York credentials, while his typically private wife, Evelyn, appeared with him at a news conference to blast a cartoon that portrayed him as a tourist.”

A Trump Case Awaits. Who Is the Best Prosecutor for the Job?” by The New York Times’ Ginia Bellafante: “In three weeks, Manhattanites will have the opportunity to vote for someone new at a pivotal moment in the history of race and social reform, during a period when leading prosecutors around the country — in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston — have been on the vanguard of the movement to reduce incarceration. The stakes would suggest a certain amount of heat, but engagement with the election has been strikingly low. In a recent poll of likely Democratic voters living in Manhattan, 44 percent said that they did not know whom they would vote for among the eight available D.A. candidates.”

Cuomo’s Political Path Brightens as Impeachment Inquiry Drags On,” by Bloomberg’s Emma Kinery: “State lawmakers and government watchdogs expressed concern that the process is moving too slowly, allowing Cuomo to endure the Assembly inquiry into claims he sexually harassed aides, covered up Covid nursing-home deaths, provided family members with virus testing before it was widely available, mishandled construction of the Mario Cuomo Bridge and misused public resources while writing a $5 million leadership book. State Attorney General Letitia James and the FBI also are investigating some of the claims. ‘We should have gone straight into impeachment when we had enough evidence to make that decision to remove him from a position of power,’ said Assembly member Ron Kim, a Cuomo critic, in an interview. ‘What we’ve created is this space for Cuomo to use his position and public resources to re-brand himself.’…

“The silence created by the ongoing probes has provided Cuomo with breathing room to redirect the political narrative. It’s a change from the near-daily assault of allegations against the third-term governor starting last year that led dozens of lawmakers to call for his resignation. ‘The Assembly has had more than enough reason to draft articles of impeachment and begin impeachment hearings in the Senate as written in our Constitution. The Assembly Judiciary Committee’s investigation is simply an attempt to appease and buy time for the Governor, rather than holding him accountable for his actions,’ said state Senator Alessandra Biaggi.”

New York to keep tobacco control spending flat despite big jump in settlement funds,” by the Times Union’s Bethany Bump: “Spending on New York’s tobacco control program will remain flat this year despite a significant increase in annual revenue that the state is expected to receive as a result of a 1999 settlement with tobacco companies. Payments from the companies to New York are due to rise 23 percent this year, from $294 million to $362 million, according to official projections tucked into a budget analysis that the state Division of Budget released this week. States struck the so-called Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) with the tobacco industry in exchange for dropping lawsuits they had been pursuing over the high cost of treating tobacco-related health conditions. Despite promises to use the money to combat tobacco addiction, New York and other states wound up using much of it to plug budget holes and fund pork barrel projects.

“Of the more than $16 billion received through the settlement to date, New York has appropriated just under $920 million toward tobacco control — and that’s not counting the $24 billion the state has managed to raise through tobacco taxes and fees over the same period. Meanwhile, annual appropriations to the program have fallen by more than half since 2008, from $85.5 million to $39.8 million as of 2019.”

Attorney General Letitia James sues Rensselaer County over early voting sites,” by Times Union’s Kenneth C Crowe II: “Attorney General Letitia James’ office is suing the Rensselaer County Board of Elections, accusing the board and its two commissioners of failing to provide voters with equitable access to public voting sites. The lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court alleges the board ignored legal criteria it was required to use when selecting polling sites — especially in the city of Troy that accounts for a third of the county’s population and the majority of its minority residents. … The Troy City Council tried unsuccessfully to get an early voting location in 2019. The County Legislature rejected the council’s efforts helping to inspire the passage of a state law mandating an early voting site be in a county’s most populous municipality. Now, the board faces a lawsuit for the first time.”

The Pandemic Threatened Their Ventilators. Will NY Officials Change Course Before The Next Crisis?” by Gothamist’s Caroline Lewis: “When COVID-19 struck New York last spring, many people feared they would land in the hospital and get put on a ventilator. But Diane Coleman was worried if she went to the hospital, the ventilator she relies on to breathe would get taken away. Her trepidation stemmed from guidance released by the state Health Department in 2015 on how ventilators should be allocated during a pandemic… One section said any patient who arrived at a hospital with their own ventilator could have it taken away for another person in desperate need… Coleman is president and CEO of the disability rights organization Not Dead Yet, which is among the plaintiffs challenging the guidance in a federal class-action lawsuit against Governor Andrew Cuomo, State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker and the New York State Department of Health.’”

#UpstateArteries: Savor your Sahlen’s dog this weekend. The brand is a survivor “in what was once a crowded field of meat packers and sausagemakers in Buffalo.”

#UpstateAnimals: A Cohoes couple can’t keep their English bulldog Bruce from his true love — skateboarding. “We thought bulldogs are fat and lazy. But he’s the most energetic dog we ever had.”

Manhattan DA could pursue racketeering charge in Trump Org probe, experts say, by POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein and Betsy Woodruff Swan: Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance could be considering a criminal charge that former President Donald Trump’s business empire was a corrupt enterprise under a New York law resembling the federal racketeering statute known as RICO, former prosecutors and defense attorneys said. New York’s enterprise corruption statute — which carries the potential for severe penalties — can be applied to money-making businesses alleged to have repeatedly engaged in criminal activity as a way to boost their bottom line. “I’m sure they’re thinking about that,” veteran Manhattan defense attorney Robert Anello said.

“No self-respecting state white-collar prosecutor would forgo considering the enterprise corruption charge.” The state law — sometimes called “little RICO” — can be invoked with proof of as few as three crimes involving a business or other enterprise and can carry a prison term of up to 25 years, along with a mandatory minimum of one to three years.

Prosecutors Investigating Whether Ukrainians Meddled in 2020 Election,” by The New York Times’ William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess, Kenneth P. Vogel and Nicole Hong: “Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have been investigating whether several Ukrainian officials helped orchestrate a wide-ranging plan to meddle in the 2020 presidential campaign, including using Rudolph W. Giuliani to spread their misleading claims about President Biden and tilt the election in Donald J. Trump’s favor, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The criminal investigation, which began during the final months of the Trump administration and has not been previously reported, underscores the federal government’s increasingly aggressive approach toward rooting out foreign interference in American electoral politics.”

Four N.Y. Republicans land on Biden’s ‘no shame’ list for touting COVID aid they voted against,” by New York Daily News’ Chris Sommerfeldt: “They give New York a bad name. Four GOP lawmakers from the Empire State were included on a ‘no shame’ list that President Biden pulled out during a speech Thursday to ridicule Republicans who have touted the benefits of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue plan even though they voted against it. ‘I’m not going to embarrass any one of them, but I have here a list of how back in their districts they’re bragging about the rescue plan,’ Biden said at an event in Ohio, holding up the list for audience members to see. ‘I mean, some people have no shame, but I’m happy they know that it benefited their constituents.’ Biden did not call out any of the 13 Republicans on the list by name, but observant photographers snapped pictures of it, divulging that New York Reps. Elise Stefanik, Lee Zeldin, Andrew Garbarino and Nicole Malliotakis all made the ignominious cut.”

— The city is creating a new home for retired playground animal sculptures in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

— “Open Streets Are Here To Stay. Not Everyone’s Thrilled About It

— New York City Council candidate Lincoln Restler is proposing abolishing parking placards.

— De Blasio will back a redesign of Greenpoint’s McGuinness Boulevard after a teacher was struck and killed there.

— The New York Times endorsed Alvin Bragg for Manhattan district attorney.

— Democratic Sen. Robert Jackson and Republican Sen. Jim Tedisco did the rare bipartisan thing to support a bill to expand who can use an EpiPen.

— Reopening a comedy club needs strong punchlines as pandemic restrictions ease.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Rudy GiulianiJessica Anderson of Heritage Action … Coalter Baker … Edelman’s Chris DonahoeKatharine Weymouth Giulia Melucci … Chalkbeat’s Carrie MelagoRon Jacobi of Bryan Cave … Isabella Moschen Storey … Newsday’s Dan JanisonKim Ton-That Rabbi Shlomo RiskinAdam Daniel Pearl David Lobl Julie Hershey Carr … Founders Bank’s Martin McCarthyJoe Bonila of Relentless Awareness LLC … (was Thursday): Taylor Nides

MEDIAWATCH — Hanna Trudo is joining The Hill as a senior political correspondent, covering progressive politics in Washington. She is a former politics reporter at The Daily Beast.

MAKING MOVES — Edward Hill is joining ViacomCBS as VP of government relations. He previously was VP of federal public affairs at McGuireWoods Consulting. (h/t POLITICO Playbook)

Cuomo says ‘major construction’ done on costly East Side Access project,” by New York Post’s Elizabeth Rosner and David Meyer: “The costly East Side Access project to connect the Long Island Rail Road with East Midtown has wrapped up ‘all major construction,’ Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday — though the new station buried deep below Grand Central Terminal isn’t slated to open until 2022. The new 350,000-square-foot station ‘140 feet below Park Avenue’ is slated to open 15 years after construction started — and 54 years since it was first proposed.”

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