The New York legislative session typically ends with many bills being debated and passed in the last few weeks. But the usual journalistic metaphor of a “flurry of bills” seems, for once, too subdued. From June 3 to June 20,...continued→
Richard Schrader, New York Legislative Director, New York
I work in Albany, New York, the town to which the Dutch fled when they lost to the British at the Battle of the Connecticut River. At the time, apparently, the greater loss was not colonizing the big prize -- Springfield, Mass. So the city has for centuries felt it had something to prove. In addition, New York’s capital has long felt overshadowed by New York City (who hasn’t – ask Boston). Still, as all New York City Mayors learn (usually on the job and too late) it’s in Albany where the Governor and state legislature construct an annual, massive budget (for the moment $130 billion and counting) that affects New York’s schools, hospitals, environmental enforcement and everything in between.
Here, and in New York’s western and southern tiers, I have fought legislative battles to pass an omnibus net metering law, expand ocean conservation programs and jumpstart green technologies like green roofs and solar photovoltaics. Our New York team has battled the construction of massive casino developments in the Catskills, toxic polluters in the suburbs and unbridled gas drilling throughout Western New York. And every year, New York’s environmentalists engage in a kind of hand-to-hand trench warfare to carve out funding for land preservation, clean water protections and open spaces.
Before coming on the NRDC staff, I was a consultant here. Before that, I was a political consultant and managed numerous winning and losing campaigns. Before that, I was the Commissioner of Consumer Affairs in New York City. During my tenure, a made-member of the Gambino crime family once offered me a job (an offer I could refuse) and a lobbyist for Philip Morris once threatened to get me fired. (He failed but I often see him wandering aimlessly these days around the New York Senate chambers during session…). I also took enforcement action against several financial institutions for predatory lending and deceptively selling junk bonds. If I knew then what I know now….
I am married to Diane Berg (28 years!), a nurse-midwife who is much better at politics than me. We met on the phone on a long ago Passover when I told her I was a sneak thief, but that’s a long story. We have two teen-age sons: Danny who plays swaggering lead guitar, wrestles on varsity, bench presses 210 pounds and largely because of that isn’t afraid of stating his opinion on pretty much everything; and Jack, captain of the middle-school soccer team, successful tween politician (“a great candidate,” says Dad) and, seriously, now that he moves to the left, way too much for me on the basketball court.
Extinction of the Species? Notes from the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee on Illegal Ivory
Verlyn Klinkenborg writes in a recent article in the New York Review of Books that “One way to talk about the Anthropocene – the geological age that begins with direct human influence over the earth’s natural systems – is to...continued→
Over the last few years, television commercials extolling the virtues of hydrofracking while conveniently papering over the degradation it causes have become pretty common fare in Pennsyslvania and western New York. The imagery is predictable — gorgeous meadows and untarnished...continued→
Environmentalists always have to scrap and battle on programs and policies both big and small, and this year was no different in Albany’s Capitol Building. Legislators handed out victories on some of New York’s important conservation initiatives in the 2011...continued→
Now that Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature have worked out an on-time new budget (an event as likely to happen as a spate of alien abductions in the Legislative Office Building) – the state government turns its...continued→
Governor Andrew Cuomo gave New York’s environment a sorely needed boost yesterday by preserving the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) in his 2011-2012 budget. This important policy decision hopefully marks a turning point for this longstanding source of conservation funding, which...continued→
As we head into the new year – with a new governor and a chance to get the state’s budget back on track – I’ve been reflecting on the past year in Albany: the good, the bad and the somewhere...continued→
In his first State of the State speech as governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo focused heavily on the obvious issues – New York’s crushing budget and economy problems. But he also introduced important initiatives on local food, green jobs,...continued→
Today, Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed Joe Martens, president of the Open Space Institute, as the new head of New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation. The embattled agency has been without permanent leadership since October, when outgoing Gov. David Paterson fired...continued→
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has sustained so many losses in resources and staff under the Paterson Administration that it’s now on life-support. Further planned cuts will have devastating impacts on land preservation, air quality enforcement, and...continued→
Respected conservationists Peter Berle and Pete Grannis were undoubtedly linked to each other when they made the rounds in Albany in the spring of 2007, after then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer nominated Grannis to be commissioner of the New York Department...continued→
With Memorial Day around the corner, New Yorkers (hardly quiet about most things) are visibly upset with Gov. Paterson’s closing of several state parks in hard economic times. Paterson, to deflect the blowback, proposed today to keep the parks open,...continued→
The New York State Senate leadership tested its balky majority by taking up several environmental and clean energy bills this week. Look up the word “frail” in the dictionary and that will define their current state – a tight 32-30...continued→
On January 25, environmental activists from across New York State gathered in Albany to rally and speak with legislators about the threat of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. Despite the monsoon-ish rainstorm, a large and lively rally was...continued→
Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.