NY Assembly Picks Heastie as Speaker to Succeed Silver

Carl Heastie was elected speaker of the New York State Assembly on Feb. 3, making him the first African American to hold the powerful position. Heastie, a Democrat from the Bronx, succeeds Sheldon Silver who resigned after being charged with allegedly taking nearly $4 million in payoffs and kickbacks. The charges include accepting nearly $700,000 from a law firm for referring two large developers who benefited from tax-abatement programs. He has denied wrongdoing and has said he would be vindicated.

The speaker is considered one of the most important positions in state government. Heastie will direct the flow of legislation, set committee assignments, and direct budget negotiations with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Republican-controlled state Senate. With the resignation of Silver as Assembly Speaker, uncertainty surrounding the looming battles over rent regulation and tax abatements increases. For tenant advocates in 1997, Silver is considered a hero for stooding fast against a campaign by the Republican-led state Senate to end rent regulation in New York State.

Now, rent-regulation laws are due to expire again in June along with 421-a tax abatement program for new developments and the J-51 tax abatement for rehabilitating older buildings. November’s election resulted in Republicans regaining control of the state Senate, and they have restated their opposition to rent regulation. And traditionally, Democrats—led by the powerful speaker—have pushed the hardest for tenant rights in Albany.

It’s not clear what role Mr. Silver will play in this year’s face-off in Albany. Silver is continuing to serve as an assemblyman while fighting corruption charges.