Assemblymember Sarahana Shrestha at a rally in Kingston against Central Hudson rate hikes and billing errors. Office of Assemblymember Shrestha
State lawmakers are set to introduce a sweeping proposal for a public takeover of Central Hudson, the region’s scandal-plagued gas and electric utility.
By Colin Kinniburgh

Hudson Valley lawmakers are introducing a bill to mount a public takeover of the electric and gas utility Central Hudson, replacing it with a new Hudson Valley Power Authority.

The goal? To turn the smallest of the state’s major utilities — and its most unpopular, according to one survey — into a democratically controlled force for greening the state’s economy. The legislation, sponsored by Assemblymember Sarahana Shrestha and Senator Michelle Hinchey, seeks to rein in rate hikes, capping bills at six percent of customers’ incomes. And, according to a draft reviewed by New York Focus, it aims to promote a just transition for workers, not least by ensuring that current, unionized Central Hudson workers retain their rights if the new authority takes over.

It’s an expansive proposal that could take the baton of the public power movement as similar efforts have hit a wall. In Rochester, a local public power campaign has stalled after the county legislature voted for the second time against funding a study on a possible takeover. Downstate, a push to cut out the Long Island Power Authority’s third-party management company has lost steam in the state legislature. And in Maine, voters last November rejected a ballot initiative to take the statewide grid public after the incumbent utilities mounted a nearly $40 million opposition campaign.

DCPI chief Tarik Sheppard displays a bike lock retrieved from Columbia University on MSNBC's Morning Joe on May 1, 2024. MSNBC via YouTube
The police department's PR team has more than doubled in size in the past two years. Some of its recent hires have histories of dishonesty and misconduct.
By Chris Gelardi

The New York City Police Department told the City Council last week that its public relations arm employs 86 people, giving the department more communications staffers than many local newsrooms have journalists.

DCPI, named after its head, the deputy commissioner for public information, has more than doubled its staff in the past two years. In May 2022, police officials told councilmembers that approximately 36 staffers were assigned to the division.

Tarik Sheppard, DCPI’s leader since August, has overseen much of this growth. Using city databases and data tools created by citizen watchdogs, New York Focus identified at least 57 uniformed nypd officers assigned to dcpi, two-thirds of whom were assigned to the division after Sheppard took over. (It’s unclear how many civilian staffers dcpi employs, and whether the assignment data are fully up to date.)

New York’s Equal Rights Amendment, which would enshrine the right to an abortion in the state, has been ordered off the November ballot, after a judge ruled that lawmakers didn’t follow the appropriate procedure in passing it. Rachel Holliday Smith spoke with Radio Catskill about the story we published in partnership with The City. 

Dozens of lawmakers who own rental properties will benefit from the carveouts to good cause eviction that they put in place. Maia Hibbett
A quarter of lawmakers in Albany are landlords. Almost none of them are covered by the most significant tenant protection law in years.
By Peter Tomao and Sam Mellins

When New York lawmakers passed the state budget last month, they included the tenant movement’s top priority: a law, known as good cause eviction, that will give many renters the right to renew their leases and shield them from hefty rent increases. But the law contains sweeping exceptions that will exempt many of the state’s landlords from its provisions — including dozens of lawmakers who are landlords themselves.

The law only applies in New York City, though towns and cities elsewhere can vote to opt in. It also exempts new housing for 30 years after it opens and landlords who own fewer than 10 units. The carve-outs mean that nearly three quarters of the 1.1 million market-rate rental homes in New York city will not be covered by the law, nor will any of the 1.1 million rental homes outside of New York City, almost all of which are market-rate, according to an analysis provided to New York Focus by the brokerage Quantierra, which tracks real estate portfolios.

“I think that we missed the mark on helping a majority of New Yorkers,” said Pamela Hunter, the Assembly sponsor of an original, broader version of good cause eviction.

Many legislators stand to benefit from the exemptions. Fifty-four lawmakers, representing a quarter of the legislature, own homes in New York other than their primary residences, a New York Focus analysis of financial disclosures found. Only two will be subject to the law. The rest, including powerful members like Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, will qualify for the small landlord exemption. A spokesperson for Stewart-Cousins declined to comment, and Peoples-Stokes’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

New York Focus is proud to be the presenting sponsor for Caffè Lena’s Sing in the Streets festival in Saratoga Springs this year. A few of us from the newsroom will be attending on May 19 — we hope to see you there!


Copyright © New York Focus 2023, All rights reserved.
Staying Focused is compiled and written by Alex Arriaga
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