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Expect more lies, bullying and pandering from a wounded Cuomo

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Expect more lies, bullying and pandering from a wounded Cuomo

So people died, and Cuomo lied, and now you’re up to date on Andrewgate. What’s next?

Doubtless a lurch to the left, as the governor moves to protect his most vulnerable flank while preparing for an expected fourth-term re-election bid.

Also more lies. Many more. Nonsensical deflections and outrageous fabrications come reflexively to Cuomo, as he twists in a windstorm of his own making.

A less fearful, more self-confident governor — Mario Cuomo, perhaps, or certainly fellow Democrat Hugh L. Carey — would have admitted upfront that a fateful, though defensible, error had been made last March. That’s when the state Department of Health ordered nursing homes to accept COVID-infected patients to clear hospital beds for an anticipated wave of new patients.

That crisis never came, but that doesn’t make the policy evil or even unreasonable, just tragically mistaken. Cuomo should have owned it and moved on.

But this would have taken courage, in which the governor is deficient. Instead, he built a stone wall and defended it with ever-more-ludicrous lies — to the point where last week a key aide told legislators they had to be kept in the dark because former President Donald Trump was an old meanie, and the administration was scared of him. As if.

But having created this mess, how does Cuomo resolve it?

More lies are a possibility, although even his own party seems to have had enough of them. Democratic Attorney General Letitia James just blew a whistle on the nursing-home coverup — and there’s talk in the veto-proof Legislature of rescinding Cuomo’s pandemic emergency powers as a rebuke.

Cuomo could man up, ditch a couple of toady staffers — Health Commissioner Howard Zucker would be a candidate — and proceed from there. Confession, they say, is soul-cleansing. (Anyway, the respected Siena College poll reported Tuesday that more than 60 percent of New York voters approve of Cuomo’s pandemic performance, never mind the nursing-home coverup. How ironic if the dissembling hadn’t been necessary in the first place.)

But this isn’t a straight-arrow governor. He prefers political bribery and bullying to candor and conciliation; his lodestar is expedience, and he is a master at reading a political chessboard. So expect a purely political, wholly self-serving response.

Cuomo has been treated rudely by the party’s left almost from the beginning. Gadfly Zephyr Teachout primaried him in 2014, earning a respectable 33 percent of the vote, and actress Cynthia Nixon did the same in 2018, polling 35 percent.

The governor’s answer to lefty ankle-biting always has been to truckle: He reversed a pledge and embraced a millionaire’s tax almost immediately upon taking office; he strongly backed an economically corrosive hike in the state’s minimum wage; he supported the infamous criminal-justice “reforms” that are now wreaking havoc from Niagara Falls to Nassau; last month, he signed legislation legalizing street-walking for the purpose of prostitution; last week, he was talking up a top tax hike that would boost New York’s headline rate to 14.5 percent, the nation’s highest; on Monday, he was touting a new law permitting commercial “gestational surrogacy” — womb-renting; and Tuesday, he announced a $100 million social-services slush fund to be capitalized from the legal sale of recreational marijuana.

All these are touchstone issues for the left, but they add up to small beer compared with the pandering possibilities embedded in the multibillion-dollar cash bath New York can expect from the COVID relief bill now working its way through Congress.

What form that aid will take is unclear, but there’s going to be a lot of it, and one can be certain that irrespective of the devastation the virus has visited on New York’s private-economy workforce, its politically cosseted public-sector unions will escape unbruised.

Here’s a bold prediction: Never mind that New York City’s fiscally collapsing, rider-starved subways will spend years getting over the pandemic, the system itself won’t see a single work rule change not approved by Transport Workers Union Local 100. That is to say, there will be none. Cuomo, hogtied by his nursing-home debacle, will see to that.

And this speaks to the structural, as opposed to the human, tragedy generated by Cuomo’s decisions: A different governor might have used the dislocations caused by the pandemic to streamline government in New York, to make it more affordable and more responsive to post-pandemic realities.

But Cuomo is the governor New York has. He is an unprincipled actor to whom truth matters only when convenient, who has dug a political hole with his mouth — and who, rather than admit it, is using the power of his office to avoid a reckoning.

New York, in the event, is on its own.

Twitter: @RLMac2

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Opinion

Biden’s ‘infrastructure’ plan wages war on the suburban dream

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Biden’s ‘infrastructure’ plan wages war on the suburban dream

If you saved your money and bought a house in the suburbs, your investment and lifestyle may soon come under attack. The single biggest item in President Biden’s “infrastructure” bill, now being negotiated with Congress, is $213 billion he claims will be used to increase affordable housing. 

What he really wants is to put the federal government in charge of local zoning and to install apartment buildings throughout single-family-home neighborhoods.   

That $213 billion is nearly twice the spending on roads and bridges. It would change towns everywhere and, for many families, torpedo the American Dream of a house with a patch of lawn.

The Biden plan’s backers are hypocrites. Biden himself owns a four-acre lakefront home in upscale Greenville, Del., where there is absolutely no public housing, affordable housing or rentals that accept housing vouchers. And don’t expect any to be built next door to the Bidens.

Biden has always had a passion for stately homes and swanky addresses, even buying a 10,000-square-foot mansion that once belonged to the DuPont family, of 19th-century gunpowder wealth. Not exactly the sort of housing setup you’d associate with “Scranton Joe.”

Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, meanwhile, own a $5 million gated home on a street of expensive single-family homes in Brentwood, Calif. That’s privilege.  

These politicians love single-family zoning and exclusivity for themselves, but not for the rest of us. When Biden was vice president, Team Obama launched its Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing program in 2015 to ensure that every neighborhood includes housing for low-income buyers and renters and public transportation. Now, as president, Biden would massively expand such efforts.

The United States has a housing shortage. But the answer isn’t to have Washington, DC, strong-arming local decision-makers. That’s what Biden’s plan does. The bill creates a gigantic pot of taxpayer funds to hand out to towns that surrender self-rule. 

That’s a mistake. Local control is vital. Towns can take into account the availability of public transportation, school capacity and proximity to employment. Uncle Sam has no clue.

Advocates for federal control argue that if anyone can afford a neighborhood, everyone should be able to afford it. That means locating apartment clusters even way out on country roads. Bus routes and bus shelters would have to be built. Roads would have to be widened to accommodate traffic, and sewers and water lines would be needed. Say goodbye to country living.

Advocates for abolishing zoning mock suburbanites for worrying about home values. But for most people, their home is their biggest investment, and they waited years to afford it.

Local control allows them to be part of the solution. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is pushing to end single-family zoning, while her opponents warn that increasing density would strain schools and transportation and require cutting down the “tree canopy” over the city’s older neighborhoods. Atlantans will decide.  

Other communities are building in-town housing for young working people and seniors, while allowing homeowners to build accessory apartments for extended family or renters. The point is this: Washington doesn’t need to put its big thumb on the scales.  

Biden’s proposals to make housing affordable are laughable. He calls for “putting union building-trade workers to work” to “save families money.” Right, as if mandating union-only labor has ever been a money saver.

Biden is also proposing a first-time home buyer’s tax credit of up to $15,000 that buyers can receive when they purchase, rather than when they file taxes. Paying people to buy homes will push up housing prices, the same way federal college aid and loans have pushed up tuitions. Federal interventions have a way of backfiring.

Biden’s plan won’t expand the American Dream — but kill it.

Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York.

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If AP really didn’t know it shared space with Hamas, why trust its reporting?

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If AP really didn’t know it shared space with Hamas, why trust its reporting?

After an Israeli airstrike Saturday destroyed a high-rise office tower on the Gaza Strip, the Associated Press, which had offices there for 15 years, complained, claiming it had no idea the building was also home to Hamas.

If it’s true that AP was so unaware — and the evidence suggests it’s unlikely — how can anyone trust its reporting in the region?

The Israeli military ordered the 12-story al-Jalaa Tower, which hosts AP and Al Jazeera offices, evacuated an hour before the strike, saying it was being used by Hamas military intelligence. For a week, tensions between Israel and Hamas, the terrorist group that controls Gaza, have been at their highest since their 2014 conflict, with Hamas raining thousands of rockets into residential areas of the Jewish state.

Israel later shared some intelligence with the United States. “We showed them the smoking gun proving Hamas worked out of that building,” a source close to Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told the Jerusalem Post. “I understand they found the explanation satisfactory.”

Of course, we’ve known for years that, as the Israel Defense Forces put it, Hamas “intentionally locates its military assets in the hearts of civil populations,” even “hiding behind” media outlets and “using them as human shields.”

And AP knew that well, according to one account. “When Hamas’ leaders surveyed their assets before this summer’s round of fighting, they knew that among those assets was the international press. The AP staff in Gaza City would witness a rocket launch right beside their office, endangering reporters and other civilians nearby — and the AP wouldn’t report it,” says a 2014 Atlantic piece by Matti Friedman. Hamas militants would regularly “burst into the AP’s Gaza bureau and threaten the staff — and the AP wouldn’t report it.”

It seems that what AP doesn’t know — and doesn’t report — always favors Hamas over those the group terrorizes.

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NYC’s homeless problem fails the most vulnerable and endangers us all

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NYC's homeless problem fails the most vulnerable and endangers us all

Rarely a day goes by without some violent attack in Gotham. After a while, the headlines can easily blend into each other, lulling us into complacency. But it’s important to dig into the details to understand the government failures at work.

Consider the heinous assault against an elderly Asian-American woman in Times Square in March. The alleged perpetrator, Brandon Elliott, kicked the woman in the stomach and then stomped on her head repeatedly. The 38-year-old Elliott had been paroled after spending 19 years in prison for murdering his mother.

And where was Elliot released to after spending almost two decades behind bars? A mental-health institution? Into the care of family? No, he was released to a Four Points by Sheraton hotel, which serves as a homeless shelter, a few blocks from where Elliot would allegedly commit his hateful crime.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks refuse to acknowledge it, but our city’s homeless policies aren’t working. The city fails both the homeless, who need our assistance, and taxpayers, who expect safe streets.

Yet Banks, especially, refuses to be held accountable. During a recent hearing, I asked him how many faith-based shelters had been opened in the Big Apple, since these settings can often be of tremendous value to taxpayers and homeless alike, fostering the kind of community support the homeless need to return to self-sufficiency. It was a straightforward question, not a “gotcha.” But even this mild query was too much for Banks.

When he refused to answer, I asked again and followed up with a question about the prior ZIP codes of residents who entered the homeless shelter in my district. Banks blew up at me and erupted into a bizarre tirade.

Homelessness is big business in New York, and under Banks and de Blasio, business has boomed. According to the Coalition for the Homeless, homelessness in the city has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression. The cost of the city’s shelter network has ballooned in tandem, to $2 billion.

Early in his administration, the mayor dismissed claims of a homelessness crisis.  Yet eventually, it couldn’t be denied. Even so, bureaucratic mismanagement plagued a Department of Homeless Services struggling to respond: Contracts to services providers couldn’t get approved by the city comptroller’s office, with some contracts never even being sent. Conditions in shelters were appalling for women and children.

Following the resignations of a deputy mayor and DHS commissioner in 2015, Banks became the chief of de Blasio’s doomed homelessness policy. Things didn’t improve.

Banks’ lack of interest in holding operating companies accountable for broken promises, like security and cleanliness, kept shelters dangerous. Many homeless New Yorkers would rather take their chances on the street.

The crisis snowballed, as Banks ignored mental-health issues and perpetuated the myth that every homeless individual is just “down on their luck.” But research shows that at least half of the homeless have some mental illness. New York City also has a prison-to-shelter pipeline that goes unaddressed.

Research from Stephen Eide at the Manhattan Institute reveals that 3,500 ex-offenders were released directly from prison into the shelter system in 2018. Other experts have testified that more than 40 percent of parolees are released into a shelter. As the recent attacks show, the pipeline too often leads, in the end, to more crime.

Acknowledging the mental-health crisis means using Kendra’s Law, which places the severely mentally ill in court-mandated treatment. Separating the mentally ill from the economically homeless would allow the city to provide better services in a safer environment. Services are needed to get these individuals on a path to self-sufficiency.

Banks made it hard to work with his agencies. For years, I tried to get data from him on the shelter in my district. Understanding which neighborhoods shelter residents were living in before moving into a shelter could help us allocate resources to prevent homelessness in the first place and then implement community-based solutions for those who become homeless.

Research has shown that community bonds are important in assisting individuals back to self-sufficiency. That is why I support faith-based shelters for community residents who find themselves homeless. New Yorkers experiencing homelessness should be sheltered with safety and dignity. But thanks to Banks’ embrace of the warehouse shelter model and the shelter-industrial complex, there’s no financial incentive to decrease homelessness or make shelters safer.

The next administration must do better.

Robert Holden represents the 30th District, covering parts of Queens, in the City Council.

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