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Sharpton gathers Black political forces

Sharpton Gathers Black Political Forces
Presented by Google: POLITICO's must-read briefing informing the daily conversation among knowledgeable New Yorkers
Apr 10, 2024 View in browser

By Emily Ngo, Nick Reisman and Jeff Coltin

Presented by Google

With help from Irie Sentner

Each year, the stakes get higher for Black voters, Rev. Al Sharpton told Playbook. | Bebeto Matthews/AP

NEW YORK MINUTE: No to state budget, yes to state dinner. Gov. Kathy Hochul is heading to the White House today for the formal event honoring Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

She’s also scheduled to meet with top Biden aide Thomas Perez. She’ll talk about the migrant crisis and seek federal approval of a new tax to unlock more Medicaid funding, a person familiar with her plans told Playbook.

Mayor Eric Adams, whose relationship with President Joe Biden is somewhat tenser, won’t be joining. But spokesperson Fabien Levy said he was hopeful Hochul would keep fighting for New York seeking a “decompression strategy” for migrants and expanded work authorization.

Also in D.C. today? Potential Adams challenger state Sen. Zellnor Myrie, speaking at a congressional briefing on gun trafficking. — Jeff Coltin

NAN THIS ELECTION YEAR: Each year, a who’s who in Black political influence gathers in midtown Manhattan for the National Action Network convention hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Each year, Sharpton told Playbook, the stakes get higher for Black voters.

“What’s consistent about our convention is that we’re always drawing thousands of people from around the country who still want to put on the front burner the issues of civil rights and voting rights,” Sharpton said in an interview.

“What’s different,” he said, “is that we’re in probably the most decisive political year of my lifetime."

The rematch set for this November between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will be on NAN members’ minds today as they kick off the convention marking the organization’s 33rd year and debate topics including justice in policing, voter suppression and housing equity.

The convention is part of Sharpton’s brand, cultivated over the years by Saturday sermons at his Harlem storefront church, national cable TV news and radio shows, his advocacy for Black Americans killed by police and his proximity to elected Democrats, including Biden, Hochul and Adams.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg will be a speaker, and some members of the Central Park Exonerated Five will be in attendance at the convention, Sharpton noted.

“The fact that a Black prosecutor on Monday will be prosecuting the guy that called for their death — and they’re all in the room — says a lot about why this is important, the uniqueness of National Action Network,” Sharpton said, referencing the start of Trump’s hush money trial next week and his call in the 1980s when the five young men were accused of rape, for the death penalty to be reimposed.

Sharpton, a long-shot 2004 presidential candidate, said he won’t tell people who to vote for, just that it’s important to make their voices heard. But he cited the curtailing of voting rights, affirmative action and abortion access by a Supreme Court to which Trump appointed three justices as reasons that voters should not sit this election out.

“People that are saying, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to vote’ will listen to some of us that are concerned,” he said. — Emily Ngo

HAPPY WEDNESDAY: Got news? Send it our way: Jeff Coltin, Emily Ngo and Nick Reisman.


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WHERE’S KATHY? In New York City delivering remarks at the NAN convention and in Washington, D.C., meeting with White House Senior Advisor Tom Perez and attending the White House State Dinner.

WHERE’S ERIC? Delivering remarks at the NAN Annual Convention kick-off, presenting certificates to the Monsignor Farrell High School Varsity Hockey League Champions, making transportation- and public safety-related announcements, meeting with Dr. Selwyn M. Vickers, president & CEO of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, touring MSK’s Zuckerman Research Center, speaking to the Local 79 apprenticeship graduating class, appearing live on PIX11’s “PIX11 News at 6pm” and delivering remarks at NAN’s Annual Convention Gala.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I got new garbage cans and was requesting a picture with the [sanitation] commissioner. And they said you’ve got to fill out this form.” — Council Member Rita Joseph, on the Adams administration’s new effort to route communications with elected officials through City Hall, POLITICO reports.


Mayor Eric Adams has declined to renew New York City's contract with DocGo, the health care company turned migrant services contractor that struggled to fulfill its responsibilities. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

DOC-GONE: Adams is scaling back the city’s relationship with the troubled DocGo, declining to renew a major migrant services contract with the health care provider, POLITICO was first to report.

When DocGo’s $432 million, no-bid contract is up next month, the city will use an extension to wind down the company’s work with migrants upstate and shift its responsibilities for migrants downstate to another provider, Garner Environmental Services.

“This will ultimately allow the city to save more money and will allow others, including non-profits and internationally recognized resettlement providers, to apply to do this critical work, and ensures we are continuing to use city funds as efficiently and effectively as possible,” Adams’ chief of staff Camille Joseph Varlack said in a statement.

A DocGo spokesperson noted it maintains ties with the administration through the extender and multiple other contracts, adding, “DocGo is immensely proud of the exceptional work that our team has accomplished and continues to perform in aiding the city’s response to this unprecedented crisis.”

Elected officials from left-leaning City Comptroller Brad Lander to Republican City Council Member Inna Vernikov cheered the wind down after DocGo was plagued by accusations of hostile security guards, large-scale food waste and lack of coordination with agencies. Its former executive also admitted to lying about his qualifications. Emily Ngo


WilmerHale lawyer Brendan McGuire is Mayor Eric Adams' former chief counsel in City Hall and has logged 146.5 billable hours at $975 an hour in Adams' federal probe, the Daily News reported. | Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

QUICK SERVICE: Adams didn’t get advance notification that federal agents were going to raid his top fundraiser’s home in November, he said Tuesday, but was able to get top lawyers working on his legal defense the very same day because of lessons he learned as a cop.

“Former law enforcement,” Adams said. “I know how to take steps when you should take steps.”

Adams’ lawyer Brendan McGuire left his City Hall job for private practice at WilmerHale in August. But on the same day as the raids, McGuire and a colleague Robert Boone got straight to work, according to a recent Daily News report.

According to Vito Pitta, the compliance attorney for the 2021 campaign, once Adams finalized the contract with McGuire’s firm the company retroactively billed him $17,000 for 17.5 hours of work that dated back to the day of the raid. — Jeff Coltin and Joe Anuta

ABOUT THOSE LAWYERS…: Alex Spiro — the lawyer just hired to defend Adams in a sexual misconduct lawsuit — was accused Monday of “astonishingly unprofessional” conduct by opposing counsel in a case where Spiro is defending billionaire Elon Musk.

Spiro isn’t licensed in Texas where the case is being held, Reuters reported, and during the deposition “generally acted in the most obnoxious manner one could contemplate without crossing into parody.”

Spiro — whose contract with the city hasn’t yet been finalized, a spokesperson confirmed Tuesday — said the other lawyer was just looking for his 15 minutes of fame. — Jeff Coltin

More from the city:

The majority of city parents and teachers want state lawmakers to limit Adams’ power over a schools oversight panel, according to a state report. (POLITICO Pro)

The Adams administration missed a court deadline in the right-to-shelter lawsuit to clear a waitlist for immigrants awaiting a shelter bed. (Gothamist)

— “Reading Rainbow” host and actor LeVar Burton decried the Adams administration’s budget cuts to the city’s public library systems. (Daily News)


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Gov. Kathy Hochul and lawmakers have weighed rolling back a provision that would weaken a 2019 law meant to bolster protections for renters as they try to reach a broad-based housing deal for the budget. | Hans Pennink/AP

HOUSING HAMSTRING: Left-leaning housing advocates and Democratic lawmakers are making a last-minute bid to block changes that would weaken a 2019 law meant to bolster protections for renters.

At issue is the potential of rolling back a provision of the law and once again allowing rent increases for individual apartment improvements of rent-stabilized units.

Lawmakers and Hochul have weighed doing so in the negotiations as they try to reach a broad-based housing deal for the budget, now more than a week late.

But rank-and-file Democrats, as well as key committee chairs, have insisted they won’t move to undo aspects of the 2019 rent laws.

“Our 2019 rent reforms are among the most significant and proudest achievements of our Democratic majority, and we will not undo them as we continue to seek protections for additional New Yorkers struggling to make ends meet amid record-high rent increases,” Deputy Senate Majority Leader Mike Gianaris said. “The people of this great state deserve no less than our full efforts to protect all tenants, not pit one group of renters against another.”

Any housing deal will likely have to include a suite of measures to satisfy real-estate interests, tenant advocates and labor unions. Changes to the 2019 law may be supported by developers but would run into a buzzsaw with legislative Democrats, underscoring the complexities of getting to an agreement.

“As state budget negotiations continue, it is critical that one set of tenant protections not be traded against another,” Cea Weaver, the coalition director of Housing Justice for All, said. Nick Reisman

SCHOOL LUNCH: State lawmakers who want to expand the availability of free school meals are circulating a report from the Food Research and Action Center that found a drop in meal participation among students in New York.

Supporters of meal expansion hope the report’s findings bolster their case for additional funding to make free school meals universal in the state. Nick Reisman

More from Albany:

Albany lawmakers are considering narrowing the scope of the tenant-friendly “good cause” eviction proposal to just lower-rent apartments, ahead of a state budget deal. (POLITICO Pro)

With nowhere else to turn, Assemblymember Juan Ardila formed a petitioning partnership with disgraced former politician Hiram Monserrate. (Queens Eagle)

A school aid deal is likely to include a funding formula change and will keep the hold harmless provision. (POLITICO Pro)


Rep. Grace Meng held a campaign fundraiser at the Bad Bunny concert in Washington last night. | Jose Luis Magana/AP | Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo

FUN RAISER: Rep. Grace Meng held a campaign fundraiser at the Bad Bunny concert in Washington Tuesday night, POLITICO’s Daniella Diaz and Nicholas Wu scooped.

Meng seems to be a fan of the Puerto Rican musician; she fundraised at his D.C. show two years ago too, Roll Call reported. Meng isn’t expected to face serious opposition to reelection this year.

More from Congress:

Former Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones raised a whopping $1.75 million in the first three months of 2024 for his comeback bid against GOP Rep. Mike Lawler. (POLITICO)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told late-night host Stephen Colbert she’ll vote for Biden, despite what she calls an ongoing “genocide” in Gaza. (Daily News)


Laura Curran is considering a rematch with Republican Bruce Blakeman to win back the Nassau County executive job for Democrats in 2025. (Newsday)

Some Trump Plaza residents in New Rochelle are fighting to keep the former president’s name on their building, even after his management company got the boot. (NY Post)

— Legislation that would restrict social media feeds for minors on TikTok and Instagram will not be in the New York state budget. (Bloomberg)


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Edited by Daniel Lippman

MAKING MOVES — Quincy Henderson is now a legislative assistant covering financial services for Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.). He previously was a legislative assistant for the House Homeland Security Committee and is a House Jan. 6 committee alum.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Hanna Rosin … New York Post’s Craig McCarthy … New York City Emergency Management’s Aries De La Cruz … CNN’s Antoine SanfuentesCarter YangLeela Najafi of Candou Ventures … NBC’s Gary Grumbach (WAS TUESDAY): Soraya Hoberman 

In Memoriam: Justin McCarthy, a former aide to ex-Sen. Michael Nozzolio and an Albany lobbyist, passed away at age 58.


$1 million

What two conservative activists owe for orchestrating a robocall voter suppression campaign targeting Black voters in New York in 2020, in a settlement with Attorney General Tish James.


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Sharpton gathers Black political forces