In Albany, Tuesday’s Election Probably Maintained the Status Quo

Republicans won an outright majority in the state senate yesterday, which means Senate Majority John Flanagan (far right) will keep his place at the decision making table with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Governor Andrew Cuomo (left and center, respectively). Photo: Flickr/NY Governor's Office
Republican Senate Majority John Flanagan (far right) will remain one of Albany’s three men in a room, along with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Governor Andrew Cuomo. Photo: Flickr/NY Governor’s Office

A few races are still too close to call, but it looks as though Republicans will maintain control of the State Senate next year, likely preserving an alliance with the growing Independent Democratic Conference.

The outcome means that Albany will by and large remain a challenging but not impossible political landscape for advocates seeking to make streets safer and improve transit.

In 2014, the Republican-IDC coalition passed bills to lower the default NYC speed limit to 25 mph and expand the city’s speed camera program from 20 locations near schools to 140. But since then, Albany’s political leadership has failed to advance significant street safety legislation. Making progress in 2017 will probably hinge on individual members of the IDC whose positions on speed cameras have shifted from one session to the next.

The Move New York toll reform package, meanwhile, which has been gradually accumulating political endorsements, lost five supporters in the Assembly, mostly to retirement. Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he would consider supporting Move NY legislation if he felt it was politically viable. While that position was always a dodge for Cuomo, who could single-handedly give Move NY serious momentum, it suggests that lining up a large number of sponsors in the legislature could sway him.

Before this election, the Assembly version of the package (A09633) had the support of 32 of the 100 or so members who represent counties served by the MTA. It will likely take some work just to regain that position.

Some freshman Assembly members, like Washington Heights’ Carmen De La Rosa, a former chief of staff to City Council transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez, should be counted on to back transit and safe streets initiatives. De La Rosa replaced Guillermo Linares, who was a sponsor of Move NY. Another newly elected Assembly member, Harlem Council Member Inez Dickens, has opposed bus lanes and shown little interest in safe streets. She replaces Keith Wright, a Move NY sponsor.

In the Senate, Move NY has the support of Republican sponsor Andrew Lanza and IDC member Diane Savino, both of Staten Island, as well as a few Democrats. As members of the likely majority, Lanza and Savino’s support is important, but not enough to deliver a vote for toll reform in the Senate.

The fact remains that Andrew Cuomo is the one person who can make Move NY a live issue, and Cuomo has his eye on the presidency again.