Biden visits Westchester

President Joe Biden’s trip to Westchester County on Wednesday is a reminder of just how much of a battleground deep-blue New York has become ahead of the 2024 elections.

Biden delivered a roughly 30-minute address at SUNY Westchester Community College Valhalla to more than 200 New Yorkers, most of whom were current or former state employees affiliated with the local branches of major unions.

The location was a stone’s throw away from New York’s 17th Congressional district, where Democrats arguably suffered their most embarrassing loss of the midterms when the incumbent Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who headed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, lost to his Republican opponent, Mike Lawler. The pick wasn’t lost on residents in attendance who recently voted Democrat.

“I think we got lazy,” said Pat Puelo, a registered Independent who lives in Westchester County and voted for Biden in the last election, of New York’s recent red wave in the area. “We didn’t realize that we needed to work as hard and get out the vote as much as we do. It’s as simple as that.”

Biden’s speech sought to demonstrate how the current brinkmanship over raising the debt ceiling could have consequences that aren’t confined to one particular party. He warned that a default would roil the economy and that the Republican demands mean less funding for veteran services and fewer teachers in classrooms.

“This isn’t just a theoretical debate going on in Washington,” Biden said, adding it will have a “real impact on real people’s lives.”

Will it work? Top Democrats in attendance said they’re hopeful.

“This makes a difference, and I hope people understand if they have a congressperson who is refusing to act because of the MAGA Republicans, it has to stop now,” said Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Democratic majority leader of the state Senate.

But not everyone is convinced. Lawler, who Biden in his remarks made a point of distinguishing from MAGA Republicans and was in attendance, didn’t seem phased that the stalemate could come back to haunt the party. He said it’s up to everyone to come to an agreement.

“Democrats obviously were disappointed in the results last year and are seeking to make our seats targets in the ’24 election cycle, but frankly, that’s their prerogative, that’s their right, but I’m going to do the job I was elected to do,” he said.

From the Capitol

BIDEN-HARRIS CAMPAIGN: Gov. Kathy Hochul and U.S. Representative Grace Meng will serve among the 50 members of the Biden-Harris Campaign National Advisory Board, the campaign announced on Wednesday. They were only two New Yorkers named to the board.

“I am honored to join the diverse coalition of Democratic leaders on the Biden-Harris 2024 reelection campaign National Advisory Board,” Hochul said in a statement. “President Biden and Vice President Harris have a proven track record of fighting for working families and have made clear electing a Republican would take us backward. Let’s finish the job.”

One name missing: Mayor Eric Adams, who has been increasingly critical of Biden’s immigration policies. — Eleonora Francica

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER: New York leaders convened the first-ever Unity Summit to Address Hate Crimes at John Jay College in Manhattan. The day-long event has been in the works since late November when Hochul announced it as she signed some bills to combat hate crimes. It included three panels addressing hate crime responses at federal, state and local levels. Panelists included members of law enforcement, clergy, criminal justice advocates, community leaders and state and federal officials. Both U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado also spoke.

The idea for the day and moving forward is to share strategies, resources, ideas, perspectives and local initiatives that are working, Hochul said. It’s also a statement that officials at every level are united to protect and promote diverse communities. “When you attack one of us, you’re picking a fight with 20 million New Yorkers. And that is not the fight you want to pick,” she said. — Anna Gronewold

From City Hall

SCHAEFFER’S SHIFT: An Adams administration official gave one of the first major public details in months about the mayor’s new agency charged with handling the migrant crisis: Molly Schaeffer will lead the Office of Asylum Seeker Operations for the time being.

Immigrant Affairs commissioner Manuel Castro told the City Council during a budget hearing Wednesday she’d been tapped as the interim director. Schaeffer is a senior emergency advisor and deputy chief of staff in the mayor’s office.

Since the mayor announced the office in March, City Hall hasn’t revealed much about how exactly it is going to coordinate crisis response across other agencies like social services and immigrant affairs.

“It’s concerning to me that your team’s role has sort of tapered away,” Council Member Shanaha Hanif, who chairs the immigration committee, told Castro.

It’s one of a slew of new offices Adams has started since becoming mayor, which he sees as key to tackling inefficiencies in city government. Others see it as more of a political tool. — Zachary Schermele

Read more from City Hall: Adams says Jordan Neely’s death proves need for forced hospitalizations


SANTOS UPDATE: Long Island Rep. George Santos pleaded not guilty to federal charges of wire fraud, money laundering and theft of public funds.

He was hit with a 13-count indictment and released on a $500,000 bond after surrendering to authorities in East Islip. He is accused of fraudulently obtaining unemployment benefits, using campaign contributions to pay down personal debts and to buy designer clothes and lying about his financial condition.

“I’m going to fight the witch hunt. I’m going to take care of clearing my name. I look forward to doing that,” Santos said outside the courtroom Wednesday afternoon.

Hochul reiterated her call for him to resign: “He should do the right thing and put this district out of its misery and move on,” she told reporters.

State GOP chair Ed Cox called Santos’ arrest a distraction from allegations against Biden — which Santos also suggested.

“The story of George Santos is over. The story of the unraveling of the Biden family’s influence peddling scheme is just beginning,” Cox said in a statement. — Joseph Spector

Read more: George Santos is facing new charges. Here’s a look at some of his biggest scandals.

On the beats

EDUCATION: Schools Chancellor David Banks insisted principals wary of the city’s plans to mandate a reading curriculum for New York City elementary schools will eventually get on board.

Banks and Adams announced Tuesday that all elementary schools will move to one of three English Language Arts curricula over the next two years to bring uniformity to curriculum.

Superintendents will make the final decision. Principals previously had broad discretion to choose what materials to use.

Henry Rubio, president of the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, said school leaders believe DOE hasn’t given them a chance to sufficiently engage their communities. He also urged the DOE to mandate curriculum for a smaller population “to identify the real challenges” and to allow for an exemption process for schools that believe their curriculum is working.

— Banks said he is not looking to “play the status quo,” adding he doesn’t believe Rubio is “starkly” against the plans but wants principals to have “a greater level of autonomy.”

“Ultimately, the principals will stand hand in hand with us to drive this because they also know in order to make change for our kids, we’re gonna need their leadership,” Banks said. “So they’re not rallying against us but I think that they’ve been used to doing things a certain way, sometimes it takes a little time to make change.” He noted the support of the head of the city’s teachers union and said the DOE will carve out some exceptions for “a handful of schools.” — Madina Touré

HOUSING: The City Council’s housing committee approved a pair of bills Wednesday that would hike fines for housing violations and ramp up scrutiny of landlords that have racked up complaints.

A measure pushed by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams would increase penalties issued by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and require the agency to identify 100 apartment buildings each year that have racked up violations that have been falsely certified as addressed. Fines would increase from up to $150 for each violation in buildings with more than five units, to as much as $1,200. For buildings identified by HPD under the measure, certain types of violations would only be deemed corrected after the housing agency conducted at least two re-inspections.

A second measure pushed by Council Member Pierina Sanchez would expand a city program that requires owners of certain buildings that have racked up heat violations to install temperature reporting devices and transmit heat data to HPD every 30 days during heat season, which lasts from October through May.

“New Yorkers should not need to call 311 time and time again to report the same issues, only to have their landlord ignore the complaint or violation,” Sanchez said before the committee vote. “If violations are not being corrected in a timely fashion, landlords must be held accountable.” — Janaki Chadha

GOOD CAUSE: Lawmakers pushing a controversial bill in Albany to effectively restrict rent hikes on market-rate apartments rallied with tenant activists at the state capitol and pledged to fight for the proposal during the remainder of the legislative session. “Every day that has passed has been a lost opportunity and New Yorkers are suffering throughout our state unnecessarily,” said Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris. “There is no good reason to oppose ‘good cause,’ other than greed.”

Proponents of the measure were hopeful it would be rolled into a wide-ranging housing deal in the budget, but that never materialized. The proposal has been resisted by Hochul and staunchly opposed by the real estate industry, which has argued it would kill housing production and severely hinder the ability of owners to properly maintain their buildings. — Janaki Chadha

Around New York

A Troy college student saved the life of a shuttle driver who suddenly stopped breathing. (Times Union)

Via THE CITY: ‘Westchester DA Moves To Vacate 26 Convictions Following Release of Police Whistleblower’s Secret Recordings.’

New Yorkers will have the opportunity to attend a free photography festival in the city the first two weeks of June. (TimeOut)

— ‘Pancreatic Cancer Vaccine Shows Promise in Small Trial,’ The New York Times reports.

Susan Sarandon was arrested on Monday while forming a human chain and pushing for higher wages for restaurant workers. (