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Not to let a news vacuum go to waste, two staunch allies of former President Donald Trump are kicking off conversations about New Yorks 2022 gubernatorial race in earnest.

Just a day after New York passed a $212 billion budget packed with progressive goodies, Rep. Lee Zeldin

(R-N.Y.) declared he would run

for governor next year. The MAGA-aligned congressmans bid comes after Andrew Giuliani, the son of the bombastic former New York City mayor, said he had discussed his own gubernatorial ambitions with Trump, his father’s former client.

Reactions? Well, a Republican hasnt won a statewide race in New York since George Pataki scored a third term as governor nearly two decades ago. Despite the dissatisfaction with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, many Democrats dismiss the idea that anyone with such close connection to Trump could find success in a state where Trump lost to President Biden by more than 20 percentage points last year.

New York might one day elect another Republican governor, state Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs told Anna Thursday

, but mostly the Republican candidate has to be someone acceptable to New York voters. They have to be moderate and rational, and neither Zeldin or Giuliani fit that bill.

Zeldin, at least, would be a different candidate than the last three Republicans who have been on the general election ballot for governor. He told POLITICO last month that he is confident in his ability to match Cuomos tens of millions of dollars

in fundraising, something none of Cuomo’s opponents have been able to do. And hed focus on red-meat Republican policies like lowering taxes, public safety and job creation, he said, priorities he believes resonate with voters across the state as Democrats in Albany appear to be shifting left.

While the new GOP contenders might indicate a primary filled with celebrities and firebrands, a Democratic primary could be even more crowded or chaotic, regardless of whether Cuomo chooses to run for reelection, Jacobs said. (We havent discussed that, was his answer to whether hed talked with the governor about a fourth term.)

That probably wont shape up until after findings emerge from the investigations into Cuomos personal and professional behavior, and Democrats eyeing the executive mansion know just who and what kind of candidate they might be facing, Jacobs said. Its one thing to have a wounded incumbent and its quite another to have an open seat.

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WHERES ANDREW? In Albany with no public events scheduled.

WHERES BILL? Speaking at the reopening of the Coney Island amusement area and appearing on WNYCs Brian Lehrer show.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: It was not optional. It was considered a part of your job. Everyone knew that you did what was asked of you and opting-out was never really an option. a former Cuomo staffer who worked on his book last year, to the Times Union

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WHAT ALBANY’S READING

WHEN NEWS broke that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo used government staff to help produce a for-profit book, his spokesman asserted that the arrangement was legal: The work was performed voluntarily, he said, and was not a misuse of taxpayer-funded resources. But several current and former Cuomo staffers, or people speaking on their behalf, disputed that their work on American Crisis last year was truly voluntary

. Instead, they told the Times Union the work was expected within the culture of Cuomos office, and that book-related assignments were made in the context of normal, daily duties. One former staffer, who was among those asked to perform tasks related to Cuomos book, said there was a clear expectation that we would do political work to help with his campaign and run the governors personal errands in the Executive Chamber. Times Unions Chris Bragg

Former Cuomo aide Charlotte Bennett, who has accused him of sexual harassment, said his senior staffers enabled the behavior

.

OFFICIALS with state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office said Thursday that Attorney General Tish James does not need their referral to conduct a criminal investigation

into Gov. Andrew Cuomos handling of Covid-19 in nursing homes. Counsel to the Comptroller Nelson Sheingold, in a letter sent to Chief Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice José Maldonado, said the office already possesses the requisite authority to conduct any criminal investigations related to nursing homes under the existing power of its Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Therefore, he said, any additional criminal referral from the Comptroller as has been requested by 10 New Yorkers who lost loved ones in nursing homes during the Covid-19 pandemic is not necessary. POLITICOs Shannon Young

A NEW LAW legalizing recreational marijuana in New York has planted the seeds for a multibillion-dollar industry, but it will likely be at least a year before retail stores and cannabis lounges are allowed to open

their doors to customers. New York lawmakers still need to appoint a five-member board that will create the regulatory framework needed to grow, distribute, sell and tax recreational marijuana statewide. Wall Street Journals Kate King

A Long Island-wide opt-out of the retail portion of the states new law legalizing recreational marijuana seems unlikely after a meeting of town supervisors on the issue resulted in no clear agreement

. Rich Schaffer, chair of the Suffolk County Town Supervisors Association, held a Zoom meeting Wednesday with all county supervisors, along with Oyster Bay and North Hempstead supervisors, a representative from Hempstead Town and the mayor of the City of Glen Cove. Schaffer said Long Beach city representatives were not believed to be on the call. I dont see a consensus, he said. I see a willingness to all try and work together to handle this bill thats been put on us with not a lot of time to figure out.Newsdays Denise M. Bonilla

#UpstateAmerica: A former mail carrier has pleaded guilty to dumping 5,833 pieces of mail in a grassy field and wooded area under a pile of tires,

roughly 100 miles away from recipients in Onondaga County.

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WHAT CITY HALL’S READING

NEW YORK CITY schools will now close only if there are four or more coronavirus casesamong students and staff and they are traced back to a known exposure within the school, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday. The mayor rolled out the new procedure days after scrapping a rule that shut down school buildings if there were two or more unrelated cases, which led to frequent closures and drew complaints from parents. We believe this new approach is going to keep everyone safe, but also keep schools open a lot more steadily, de Blasio said at a press briefing. “The vast majority of closures won’t happen any more under this approach. POLITICOs Erin Durkin

Only 15,000 students are enrolledin a child care program

launched to supplement hybrid learning, which was supposed to serve 100,000. And its over-budget anyway.

Applications for kindergarten have dropped 12 percent this year

.

REP. YVETTE Clarke plans to endorse mayoral candidate Maya Wiley on Friday, several sources said

, helping build support in Central Brooklyn for a campaign that has struggled to surge in a crowded field with many voters still undecided. Several candidates in the eight-way Democratic primary had been angling for Clarkes backing. She represents a civically-active area with the highest voter turnout of any Congressional district in the most recent presidential primary. She also belongs to a political operation that has enjoyed electoral success and handily defeated her own primary challenge last year after narrowly escaping one in 2018. Her endorsement stands to hurt Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who is counting on robust turnout among Black Democrats in the borough to deliver him to victory on June 22. POLITICOs Sally Goldenberg

AS DENNIS VOURDERIS started getting his family-owned Coney Island amusement park ready for its Friday opening

, there was hardly a detail that escaped his or his crews attention. The platform for the first-day ceremony had to be taken out of storage. The computer system had a glitch that required fixing. And the Ferris wheel needed some touch-up paint. Of course, it isnt just a Ferris wheel. It is the Wonder Wheel, the 150-foot New York City landmark attraction, with a unique design featuring swinging and stationary cars, that has stood as a symbol of Coney Islands enduring appeal. In fact, the ride turned 100 last year, but Denos Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, the business run by Mr. Vourderis and his family, couldnt properly celebrate the occasion since Coney Island, like so many outdoor attractions in New York state, wasnt permitted to welcome customers because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The state has now reversed course. Wall Street Journals Charles Passey

CORONAVIRUS VARIANTS now account for nearly 80 percent of the COVID-19 cases in the Big Apple, city health officials reported Thursday. The home-grown New York City variant which health officials suspect is more contagious than the original strain accounted for 45 percent of the samples examined between March 22 and March 28, according to the most recent report from the citys Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The data reveals that the so-called UK variant of the virus, which is also believed to be far more contagious, accounted for another 30 percent of the cases. New York Posts Nolan Hicks

WHEN THE BARGES finally began carrying loads of toxic sludge out of Brooklyns Gowanus Canal last year, the long-awaited cleanup effort was heralded as a milestone for one of the most polluted waterways in America, and for the industrial neighborhood, Gowanus, that grew around it… Gowanus, where aromas of sewage and sulfur and burning rubber waft across streets lined with low-slung warehouses, is now at the center of a fight over the future of New York City. The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, in its waning months, is pushing one of the most ambitious neighborhood plans

of his more than seven years in office. The New York Times Mihir Zaveri, Brad Hamilton and Jo Corona

TRUMP’S NEW YORK

INVESTIGATORS FROM the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, acting on a grand jury subpoena, took possession of financial records Thursday

morning from the apartment of Jennifer Weisselberg, the former daughter-in-law of a top Trump Organization officer. Jennifer Weisselberg was married to Barry Weisselberg the son of Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg from 2004 to 2018. She has previously said that she had seven boxes of financial records from both her ex-husband and his father, some of which were obtained through divorce litigation. On Thursday, she loaded three boxes and a laptop computer onto a valet cart and wheeled them from her building to a black Jeep with dark-tinted windows that was waiting outside. Washington Posts Shayna Jacobs and David A. Fahrenthold

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AROUND NEW YORK

To-go boozewill be extended

for at least another month.

Wall Street donors are giving big money

to Tali Farhadian Weinstein in the Manhattan district attorneys race.

The Queens DAdropped charges against a man arrested by a police officer

who appeared to kneel on his neck.

Families who lost MTA worker relatives to Covid-19 have to pay taxes on their death benefits

.

Brooklyn borough president candidate Robert Cornegy claimed to have received

three endorsements from people who didnt actually endorse him.

New Yorks new state budget includes $800 million in direct cash assistance for small businesses

.”

A Brooklyn manwas charged in three separate anti-Asian attacks

in the past month.

SOCIAL DATA BY DANIEL LIPPMAN

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Jeff ZuckerJoe Scarborough MSNBCs Alex Witt and Jeff Kepnes NBC Washingtons Brett Holton The Guardians Lucia Graves … Cynthia Nixon Global Strategy Groups Jon SilvanRoss Wallenstein

SPOTTED: Michael Cohen on Thursday morning walking past Sant Ambroeus at the Regency hotel in Manhattan on his way to walk with a friend through Central Park by the reservoir. He is allowed two hours of daily outside time during his period of home confinement.

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I drive with Uber because I love to drive, she says. It just puts the MS far out of my head. Theres no way I could work a regular 9-5.

With Uber, Olivia can choose when, where, and how long she wants to drive. This flexibility lets Olivia be there for her daughter and for her own health needs.

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REAL ESTATE

IN ONLY A YEAR, the market value of office towers in Manhattan, home to the countrys two largest central business districts, has plummeted 25 percent

, according to city projections released on Wednesday, contributing to an estimated $1 billion drop-off in property tax revenue. JPMorgan Chase, Ford Motor, Salesforce, Target and more are giving up expensive office space and others are considering doing so. Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, the largest private sector employer in New York City, wrote in a letter to shareholders this week that remote work would significantly reduce our need for real estate. For every 100 employees, he said, his bank may need seats for only 60 on average. The New York Times Peter Eavis and Matthew Haag

TENANTS IN a Bushwick building scored a victory against their landlord in court this week, which could be a harbinger of headaches to come for the real estate industry. A New York State Supreme Court judge ruled that the tenants suit, which accuses landlord Spruce Capital Partners of rent overcharges at 1209 Dekalb Avenue, would continue. The landlord and three influential trade groups had petitioned the court to dismiss the case. Its one of seven separate cases where tenants are seeking class action status against landlords who received 421a tax abatements and then allegedly illegally inflated rents at their properties. The complaints were filed in the past seven months after investigations by the watchdog group Housing Rights Initiative. The Real Deals Erin Hudson