School reopening troubles — How Cuomo’s tight control slowed pandemic response — Homeless move has citywide ripples

A week ahead of the already delayed first day of in-person school in the city, complications are mounting.

Alison Hirsh, a top official overseeing the school reopening push, left her post Friday after just two months on the job. Hirsh, who previously left her City Hall job because of her objections to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s handling of the NYPD during police brutality protests, will now head to Maya Wiley’s likely mayoral campaign, our Sally Goldenberg reports. At the Department of Education, she’s the latest in a string of high-profile departures as the opening of schools approaches.

At schools around the city, at least 19 teachers and staffers have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Friday. Only one school, P.S. X811 in the Bronx, shut down. It did so for 24 hours because two staffers tested positive, while the other 17 buildings are allowed to stay open because they only had one confirmed Covid-19 case each.

But teachers at a school in Queens refused to enter their building, the Daily News reports, instead working outside because of objections to how a positive test there has been handled. And DOE would not reveal the full list of schools where teachers tested positive, nor how many school staffers exposed to the infected teachers have now been sent home to quarantine for 14 days.

Principals say they still don’t have enough teachers to make the blend of in-person and remote classes work, the Wall Street Journal reports. With plans calling for separate teachers to run in-person and online sessions, they say they now need twice as many teachers as normal but have the same amount of money to pay for them.

And after delays in supplying some schools with protective equipment, some principals are complaining about the poor quality of materials they are getting. A Queens principal told the Post their school received defective thermometers and poor quality masks. “Every principal in NYC is banging their head against the wall,” the administrator said.

IT’S MONDAY. Got tips, suggestions or thoughts? Let us know … By email: [email protected] and [email protected], or on Twitter: @erinmdurkin and @annagronewold

WHERE’S ANDREW? In Albany with no public events scheduled.

WHERE’S BILL? Holding a media availability, signing bills and appearing on NY1’s Inside City Hall.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “This has affected a lot of people — there are people who work for (the unemployment office) who drink every night. People are screaming and crying, the amount of stress. They know they are doing things they shouldn’t be doing. … It goes against their morals and ethics.” — A clerk in the state’s Department of Labor to the Times Union

ABOVE THE FOLD: “NEW YORK CITY was locking down. Gov. Andrew Cuomo wanted to say when and how it would happen. After Mayor Bill de Blasio told residents in a March 17 news conference to prepare to ‘shelter in place,’ Mr. Cuomo dismissed the mayor’s plan in a television interview while his aides blitzed City Hall with calls. ‘The phones were ringing off the hook,’ recalled Freddi Goldstein, the mayor’s press secretary at the time. ‘They said, “[The mayor] sounds crazy. He’s scaring people. You have to walk it back. It’s not up to you. It’s not your call.”’ The federal government largely left the coronavirus response to states. While some governors ceded power to local officials, others centralized it. Mr. Cuomo, more than most state leaders, insisted that nearly every decision come from his office, including when to close office buildings, the size of weddings and the type of air filters required at shopping malls. Mr. Cuomo and his small team took command of the state Health Department and overrode local governments that wanted to go beyond the state’s social-distancing restrictions. That delayed the shutdown of the nation’s biggest city and slowed the reaction time as the virus spread in nursing homes, contributing to the nation’s highest death toll.” Wall Street Journal’s Jimmy Vielkind, Joe Palazzolo and Jacob Gershman

“WHEN MAYOR BILL de Blasio’s decree reached Mike Bonano, he rented a U-Haul right away. A part-time driver for a moving company, Bonano, 50, knows how to pack up. He’s also homeless. So, when he heard on Wednesday that the shelter where he and his wife, Dawn, 47, live — the Harmonia Hotel on East 31st Street — would be emptied out to make room for single homeless men being kicked out of a hotel on the Upper West Side, he knew what to do. ‘I moved all my stuff out this morning and put it into storage, except for two bags of clothes and my toiletries,’ he told THE CITY Thursday evening… But now the couple and their neighbors at the Harmonia are in a holding pattern. Late in the day Friday, after an outcry from attorneys, advocates and local elected officials, the city agreed to pause all moves at the Harmonia, according to a spokesperson for the Legal Aid Society. Legal Aid had threatened to sue the city over the abrupt move-out order at the Midtown shelter — ordered by de Blasio to make room for homeless men who have been living at the Lucerne Hotel on West 79th Street.” The City’s Rachel Holliday Smith

— In a neighborhood Facebook group frequented by Upper West Siders opposed to the homeless men at the hotel, “local residents had openly fantasized about an armed uprising against their homeless neighbors, counseled each other to use wasp spray and dog feces to make them feel unwelcome, and referred to people perceived as homeless as ‘trash,’ ‘scum,’ and ‘thugs.’”

— Midtown, Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea hotels have housed several homeless single adults during Covid, while Staten Island’s hotels haven’t housed any, per city data.

— “Families with children are being moved from a Brooklyn homeless shelter one week before school starts to appease well-to-do New Yorkers who don’t want homeless people among them, said a City Council member who deals with social welfare issues.”

HOMELESS NEW YORKERS FEEL LEFT BEHIND BY REMOTE LEARNING — “New York City’s unplanned experiment in remote learning has been disastrous for many of the city’s 1.1 million schoolchildren. But it has been particularly catastrophic for its roughly 114,000 homeless students, who rely on school buildings for meals, physical and mental health services, and stability.” New York Times’ Eliza Shapiro

“NEWLY SURFACED DOCUMENTS reveal damning details about the scale and scope of what NYCHA knew of its serious lead issues in housing units with kids — all while Mayor Bill de Blasio downplayed the health crisis. Local Health Department inspectors found lead in 222 NYCHA apartments across 93 developments — more than a quarter of all complexes citywide — between 2010 and 2018, according to records that City Hall only produced after The Post sued it under the state’s Freedom of Information Law. Experts have said there is a high likelihood of finding lead in other apartments in a building where it has already been discovered. Yet NYCHA was able to avoid making any repairs to 158 of the 222 lead-tainted apartments thanks to appeals to the city DOH, the documents show.” New York Post’s Nolan Hicks

“WITH CONDITIONS DECAYING in New York City neighborhoods and business districts, a powerful corporate executive traveled to Gracie Mansion in July to meet with Mayor Bill de Blasio. He briefed the mayor on a plan — prepared by 14 consulting firms — for how City Hall could work with business leaders to overcome the pandemic downturn. Mr. de Blasio appeared supportive. The executive, Steven R. Swartz, head of the Hearst media conglomerate, left feeling hopeful, as he later told others from the Partnership for New York City, a top business group. But weeks then went by, and the corporate leaders began feeling that Mr. de Blasio was ignoring their concerns. On Thursday, they struck back in the form of an open letter that publicly upbraided the mayor for neglecting ‘public safety, cleanliness and other quality-of-life issues,’ which they said had led to ‘widespread anxiety’ among New Yorkers… The letter from the chief executives underscores how the years of distrust are creating new obstacles for what Mr. de Blasio had hoped would be the start of the city’s ‘rebirth.’” New York Times’ J. David Goodman, Emma G. Fitzsimmons and Jeffery C. Mays

“GOTHAM’S RITZIEST neighborhoods are among the biggest laggards when it comes to filling out the 2020 Census — potentially risking the loss of $3 billion in federal funding over the next decade, a Post analysis shows. Manhattan is home to fourteen of 20 New York neighborhoods that have the biggest gaps between the rate at which they’ve completed the 2020 Census compared to the 2010 count, according to stats compiled Friday.” New York Post’s Nolan Hicks

“BEHIND THE EFFORTS to handle the historic number of jobless applications — heaped on a department using antiquated computer systems and low-paid workers — two narratives emerged from the state’s distribution of more than $41 billion in unemployment benefits and federal pandemic assistance. The first is gleaned from a review of internal labor department correspondence and interviews over the past month with employees on the front lines of the call center. Those workers — all speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of losing their own jobs — contend an untold number of claims may have been overpaid or approved for people not entitled to receive them, including an inmate just released from prison, people who had not worked in at least 18 months and others who filed unemployment applications in multiple states.…

‘People (in the office) were told to submit claims without calling claimants and to fudge things that were always important to us, like (providing) their mother’s maiden name, which is our security question,’ the worker said. ‘We had high school students who had never worked a day in their life receiving $182 a week in benefits.’” Times Union’s Brendan J. Lyons

“THE SUPERINTENDENT OF Mohonasen schools is defending his decision to move forward with school reopening — despite knowing that an administrator had COVID-19 and was exposed to other administrators the week before in-person classes started. District Superintendent Shannon Shine sent a lengthy letter to the school community Friday, which was posted to the district website, saying that an administrator who had attended a lunch with 13 other administrators on Sept. 3 had developed a fever later that day, and reported to Shine that he had tested positive for COVID-19 the following morning. However, Shine decided to move forward with reopening schools on Sept. 9, and did not tell the Schenectady County health department about the situation.” Times Union’s Massarah Mikati

“A FOUR-HOUR standoff between Rochester police and a crowd protesting the death of Daniel Prude ended early Sunday after bottles were thrown at officers and police used pepper spray on protesters. Police said they arrested one person and reported no injuries to officers. It was not immediately known how many protesters were hurt. The standoff, which occurred after nearly a week of peaceful protests, was at Child and Wilder streets, one block from RPD’s Special Operations Division office. Previous confrontations were in downtown Rochester, near the Public Safety Building. The marches rolled into their second straight weekend after news of Prude’s encounter with police was made public.” Democrat & Chronicle Staff

— Rochester-area officials and candidates gathered Saturday for racial justice training.

#UpstateAmerica: Seven pals in Saratoga Springs won more than $75,000 on the Kentucky Derby — by mistake.

“EAST AURORA political consultant Michael R. Caputo found himself at the center of a scientific and political firestorm Saturday in the wake of a Politico report showing that he’s leading an effort to alter the Centers for Disease Control’s scientific reports to make them more compatible with President Trump’s views of the Covid-19 pandemic. Prominent epidemiologists and other scientists took to Twitter to express their outrage that Caputo, who was named assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services in April, and his staffers would try to change the tone of the CDC’s science-based research on the pandemic. Many echoed comments that Dr. Nancy H. Nielsen, senior associate dean for health policy at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, made in an interview. ‘This is terrible. I mean, this is censorship. This is suppression,’ said Nielsen, a former president of the American Medical Association.” Buffalo News’ Jerry Zremski

“THE TRUMP administration admitted Friday to stripping millions of dollars from an FDNY fund that foots healthcare bills for 9/11 survivors and promised to try to put an end to the heartless practice. The administration’s about-face came after the Daily News exclusively reported Thursday that the Treasury Department has over the past four years siphoned nearly $4 million from the FDNY World Trade Center Health Program, which helps cover medical services for firefighters, EMTs and paramedics still suffering from 9/11-related illnesses. A Treasury Department official said in an email after repeated requests from The News that it was “an unfortunate situation” that the funds were being redirected from the FDNY program.” Daily News’ Michael Mcauliff and Chris Sommerfeldt

— “New York lawmakers have proposed the ‘No Citizen is Above the Law’ legislation that would make it harder for President Trump or any other future president to avoid state prosecution if accused of criminal wrongdoing.”

“PRESIDENT TRUMP’S lawyers on Friday accused a federal judge of ‘stacking the deck’ against Mr. Trump in his long-running fight to block the Manhattan district attorney from getting his tax returns. The assertion came in a legal filing in which Mr. Trump’s lawyers asked a federal appeals court to scrap a lower court’s decision that would allow the district attorney to obtain the returns and other financial records.” New York Times’ William K. Rashbaum and Benjamin Weiser

NYC POLICE UNION LEADERSHIP MOSTLY WHITE, MALE AND CONSERVATIVE — “The tableau of the four union leaders standing together with Mr. Trump reflected a larger truth about the upper ranks of the city’s police unions: Even as the Police Department has become more diverse and is now less than half white, the unions continue to be run mostly by white conservatives who live in the suburbs and increasingly echo the president’s views. Nearly 90 percent of the police unions’ leaders — officers, trustees, financial secretaries — are white and even more are men, according to an analysis of public records by The New York Times. Close to 70 percent are registered Republicans and more than 60 percent live on Long Island or in counties north of New York City, the analysis found.” New York Times’ Alan Feuer

“STATE OFFICIALS have taken steps to make it easier for New Yorkers to cast their ballots by mail in November, but advocacy groups are pushing them to go even further for the biggest election since the novel coronavirus took hold…Advocacy groups, including Common Cause New York and the New York Civil Liberties Union, sent a letter last week asking Mr. Cuomo to mandate the use of postage-paid envelopes for any absentee ballots that are issued. The groups said the cost of stamps could be a barrier to voting. Common Cause and other good-government groups, including the New York Public Interest Research Group and the League of Women Voters, are also pushing for an additional $50 million in funding for state and local boards of election to cover unanticipated expenses due to the pandemic.” Wall Street Journal’s Jimmy Vielkind

“FORMER NEW YORK Former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg plans to spend at least $100 million in Florida to help elect Democrat Joe Biden, a massive late-stage infusion of cash that could reshape the presidential contest in a costly toss-up state central to President Trump’s reelection hopes. Bloomberg made the decision to focus his final election spending on Florida last week, after news reports that Trump had considered spending as much as $100 million of his own money in the final weeks of the campaign, Bloomberg’s advisers said.” Washington Post’s Michael Scherer

“NEW YORK’S COMEDY clubs, theaters and other live venues are very fund-worthy. That’s the message Sen. Chuck Schumer and Jerry Seinfeld — sorry, no Danny Tartabull — teamed up to deliver Sunday, pushing for federal legislation to support city entertainment spots forced to close up amid the coronavirus pandemic. … Schumer, the Senate minority leader, is advocating for the Save Our Stages Act, which would procure a not-so-junior mint of $10 billion to keep afloat venues that have seen their profits undergo significant shrinkage.” New York Post’s Rachel Green and Aaron Feis

— Rudy Giuliani’s son Andrew says he’s considering a run for mayor.

— Video shows hundreds of men defying social distancing restrictions by crowding into a Crown Heights synagogue for prayer services ahead of the Jewish High Holy Days.

— Board members say the MTA should be looking at other funding options in case a federal bailout doesn’t come through.

— Developers pushing the Industry City rezoning are offering to tie job creation to their expansion plans.

— The largest holder of New York City taxi-medallion loans has forgiven $70 million in debt.

— “The future of New York’s energy landscape is inextricably tied to the outcome of November’s presidential election and the makeup of a key federal regulator.”

— In Saratoga Springs, the reckoning with racial discrimination and injustice has been met with awkwardness and resistance.

Education advocates staged two rallies in Albany over the weekend.

— Cuomo signed a bill reconstituting a task force that examines the health effects of 9/11 workers.

— SUNY Oswego is suspending all sports and Greek activities for the semester — and in-person dining and dorm visitations indefinitely.

— Tonawanda alarmed residents with an emergency alert – for handwashing.

— There was another illicit crowded party this weekend in Washington Square Park despite scolding by NYU.

— “‘Covid Will Not Win’: Meet the Force Powering Brooklyn Hospital Center”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs … NYT’s Matt Flegenheimer and Tim Arango Alex Korson, executive producer at MSNBC … Russell Berman, staff writer at The Atlantic … Victoria Esser, managing director at the Glover Park Group … Axios’ Hans Nichols Elliot Berke, managing partner of Berke Farah (h/t Tim Burger) … Jillian Hughes, broadcast producer for CBS’ “Face the Nation” … NBC’s Scott Foster Jolyn Cikanek, government relations and PAC manager at Genworth Financial … Naomi Karavani Paula Dobriansky (h/t Matthew Swift) … Katie Boyce, executive editor for digital at Bloomberg … Melina DelkicClay Chandler Julia Savel

… (was Sunday): Bloomberg’s Laura Davison (h/t Katy Summerlin) … NBC’s Ginger GibsonCasey Dolan, executive producer of “MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson” … Sanette Tanaka Sloan … NBC News PR’s Emma Martin … Edelman’s Thomas DudleyAshley Calame of Squarespace comms … Mark MellmanVivian Schiller, executive director of Aspen Digital … David BehmoarasStephen Siegel James Ferrari

… (was Saturday): Matt Lewis, senior columnist at The Daily Beast and CNN political commentator … Max Boot turned 51 … Andrea DeVito, coordinating producer for “Fox News Sunday” … POLITICO’s Ben Schreckinger … Edelman’s Mariana Cotlear Jill JacksonNatalie RapsRichard Thaler turned 75 … Ed Moy, former director of the U.S. Mint, turned 63 … Ethan Klapper, senior audience development editor at Yahoo News … Khan Shoieb Alex Thaler

CLICKERS — VANITY FAIR: “‘He Had a Twisted Umbilical Cord to Trump’: Michael Cohen’s Daughter Reflects on His Time with the President, and Becoming Trumpworld ‘Collateral Damage’”

WEEKEND WEDDING Laura Nahmias, a member of the editorial board at the N.Y. Daily News, and Matt Mittenthal, senior director of communications at BuzzFeed News, were married on Saturday by Betsy Gotbaum, the former New York City Public Advocate, at Wave Hill in the Bronx, NY. Pool report: “Laura and Matt met in 2014, when Matt was press secretary and chief spokesperson for the New York State Attorney General, and Laura was a reporter for POLITICO New York’s Albany bureau, where she reported on state politics.” Pic

“WHEN IT COMES to new development, buyers who are choosing to stay in New York — and have the means to stay — are choosing Brooklyn and Queens. Five months after Covid-19 crippled the city’s real estate market, sales across the city are down, but the boroughs beyond Manhattan are faring better, in some rare cases even exceeding pre-pandemic expectations. While the New York exodus, to the suburbs and beyond, has so far been overstated, many of those who have left were affluent residents with second homes and had played a disproportionate role in supporting the overpriced Manhattan condo market, which was already slumping before Covid-19.” The New York Times’ Stefanos Chen

“KATHLEEN and Jimmy Flynn did something in June many would have thought unthinkable before the pandemic. The California couple placed a bid and signed a contract on a two-bedroom, East Aurora house without ever setting foot inside. Instead, they relied on their agent, Matt Lepovich of Century 21 Gold Standard, to take them on a virtual tour using FaceTime, showing them every nook and cranny – while the couple watched from their kitchen table back home in Burbank, Calif. ‘If you asked me a year ago if someone would buy a $300,000 house and not see it, I would have said you’re crazy,’ Lepovich said.” Buffalo News’ Jonathan D. Epstein