TIME

Andrew Cuomo Meddled With His First ‘Independent’ Commission, Too

Andrew Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during an economic development news conference at GE Global Research in Niskayuna, N.Y. on July 15, 2014. Mike Groll—AP

The New York Governor pressured members of a utility commission to vote for privatization of the Long Island Power Authority, sources say

Before New York Governor Andrew Cuomo set up a supposedly independent commission to investigate political corruption in Albany—a commission he later shut down after it began poking around his own operations, a commission that is now causing him serious political headaches that could become legal headaches—he set up a supposedly independent commission to investigate the state’s electric utilities.

Mark Green, Cuomo’s fellow Democrat and onetime political opponent, says he was surprised when Cuomo tapped him to serve on the utility commission in November 2012. He says he was less surprised when Cuomo’s aides quickly began pushing the commission to propose privatizing the dysfunctional Long Island Power Authority, which was still struggling to get the lights back on after Superstorm Sandy. Several sources confirm the governor’s office pressured the commission to issue a report recommending privatization less than two months after its creation, and that Green threatened to resign when a Cuomo press release incorrectly suggested the recommendation had been unanimous.

“Independent?” Green said. “They tried to ram privatization down our throats. I told them I wasn’t going to be a fig leaf for Andrew.”

A spokesperson for Cuomo declined to comment.

Green, who lost to Cuomo in a Democratic primary for attorney general in 2006, was the commission’s most strident opponent of gubernatorial interference. But sources say members with no axe to grind—notably Peter Bradford, who had led the state Public Service Commission under Cuomo’s father Mario, and former attorney general Robert Abrams, a co-chair of the commission—objected as well.

“Several of us felt we needed to get further into our investigation before settling on one particular recommendation,” Bradford said. “There was definitely back-and-forth with the governor’s office about that. They had a viewpoint, and they wanted us to endorse it so quickly, we risked being perceived as a rubber stamp.”

Still, Bradford believes that Cuomo’s first Moreland Commission—the name comes from the state’s century-old Moreland Act—did good work without too much meddling. “It’s fair to say the governor didn’t have a truly independent process in mind,” Bradford said. “But nobody stopped us from issuing subpoenas. Nobody shut us down. The interference wasn’t as heavy-handed as it seems to have been later.”

Bradford was referring to Cuomo’s second Moreland Commission, the one that was supposed to root out corruption in state politics, the one that Cuomo disbanded in April. The New York Times reported this week that Cuomo’s aides forced it to withdraw a subpoena issued to the governor’s media-buying firm, and “objected whenever the commission focused on groups with ties to Mr. Cuomo.” Federal prosecutors are now investigating what happened with the commission.

The response from Cuomo’s office, laid out in this 13-page letter to the Times, has been rather novel: The commission was never intended to be truly independent, because it was a creature of the executive branch. “You know that’s f-cking ridiculous, right?” Jon Stewart asked on The Daily Show.

In fact, Cuomo, who’s running for reelection, aired a campaign ad bragging about the “Independent Commission” he established to fight corruption, but apparently, independence is a matter of degree. The letter to the Times argued that a commission created by the governor that reported to the governor and had the power to investigate the governor “would not pass the laugh test.” In fact, Cuomo said last August that the commission would investigate “anything they want to look at—me, the lieutenant governor, the attorney general,” and so on.

It’s an awkward position for Cuomo, but he’s still an overwhelming favorite to beat his Republican challenger, Rob Astorino, who recently lashed out at Republican Governors Association chairman Chris Christie for suggesting the race was a lost cause, as well as a liberal Democratic challenger, Zephyr Teachout. Cuomo has governed from the center on economic issues, working with Republicans to cut spending and cap property taxes, while tacking left on social issues, passing gay marriage and gun control laws. He lacks his father’s flair for rhetoric, but he’s seen as a more effective political operator, transactional rather than inspirational, pursuing the possible rather than the ideal. Albany has seemed a bit less dysfunctional during his tenure; politicians are still getting hauled off to jail but they’re at least finally passing budgets on time. Cuomo is often talked about as a potential presidential candidate—presumably not unless Hillary Clinton passes on the race in 2016, but quite possibly in 2020 or beyond.

The corruption commission could put a serious dent in that talk. It plays into the dark side of Cuomo’s reputation, persistent since he served as his father’s top aide, as a control freak and a bully. Several sources who declined to talk on the record cited fear of retribution. “I don’t want to poke that bear,” one official said.

On the other hand, Cuomo’s defenders say his aggressive approach has helped him break through the usual chaos of Albany to get things done—including, incidentally, the privatization of LIPA. Bradford said he was uncomfortable with the idea at first, and with Cuomo’s efforts to claim phantom unanimity. But by the time the commission finished its work, Bradford no longer felt uncomfortable.

“In the end, privatization seemed like the best way to shake things up,” he said. “Things worked out.”

TIME Israel

Michael Bloomberg Blasts FAA for Halting Israel Flights

Bloomberg Flies El Al, Says Travel To Israel "Safe"
Mike Bloomberg, majority shareholder of Bloomberg LP and former New York mayor, second right, and Nir Barkat, mayor of Jerusalem, right, speak with member of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in Jerusalem, Israel, on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. Gilad Mor—Bloomberg/ Getty Images

"It was an overreaction for the FAA to halt U.S. flights here – and a mistake they should correct"

Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg said the Federal Aviation Administration overreacted after it canceled flights to Israel for 24 hours. Bloomberg flew to the country himself Wednesday, to “show solidarity with the Israeli people” and to “show that it’s safe to fly in and out” of the country, despite the ongoing crisis in Gaza.

“Halting flights here – when the airport is safe – hurts Israel and rewards Hamas for attacking Israel. Hamas wants to shut down the airport; we can’t let that happen,” Bloomberg said in a statement posted to his website. “I’m a pilot – and I’ve always believed the FAA does a great job – and still do. But on this issue, I think the agency got it wrong.”

The FAA ordered American carriers to stay put on Wednesday, after a rocket hit a mile away from Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport. Flight operations were canceled “due to the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza,” the FAA said.

Bloomberg, who says he has “always been a strong supporter of Israel,” landed in Tel Aviv at 5 a.m. local time on Wednesday via an El Al flight. He applauded Secretary of State John Kerry for also flying into the region on Wednesday to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

“He was right to fly in, and I hope he will report back that the airport is safe and that the FAA should reverse its decision,” Bloomberg said.

TIME New York

Bill de Blasio Learns How to Eat Pizza Like a New Yorker…in Italy

New York mayor Bill de Blasio (L) eats a pizza made by Napoli's pizza chef Gino Sorbillo (2nd from L) in Naples, Italy on July 23, 2014..
New York mayor Bill de Blasio (L) eats a pizza made by Napoli's pizza chef Gino Sorbillo (2nd from L) in Naples, Italy on July 23, 2014. Pietro Avallone—Zuma Press

Proof the mayor of the Big Apple can also eat pizza with his hands

New York City is a place famous for welcoming inhabitants of all stripes and persuasions—”Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”—but the one thing New Yorkers will not abide, it seems, is a mayor who eats his pizza with a fork.

No New York City mayor—in recent memory, at least—has had his pizza eating style critiqued quite so much as Mayor Bill de Blasio. Within days of his election in January, de Blasio was fending off verbal barbs from irate denizens of the Big Apple after he was caught on camera eating pizza with a fork at a pizzeria in Staten Island. (The Boston-born, Italian-lineage de Blasio later said he was employing the methods of his “ancestral homeland.”)

While on vacation with his family Wednesday in Naples, Italy — that “ancestral homeland” of his — de Blasio was busted again using a fork while devouring an authentic Italian pizza pie. But before your inner Yankee dusts off the old pitchfork, see this photo taken the same day—proof that Mayor Bill de Blasio is fully capable of standing upright while awkwardly wielding a handful of napkins and folding a greasy pizza slice in half before shoving it into his pie hole, like any civilized New Yorker would.

TIME Civil Rights

Cop in ‘Chokehold’ Death Had Civil Suits Filed Against Him

Vigil Held For Staten Island Man Who Died After Illegal Police Chokehold
Richard Watkins (5) attends a vigil for Eric Garner near where he died after he was taken into police custody in Staten Island last Thursday on July 22, 2014 in New York City. Spencer Platt—Getty Images

The City of New York has already doled out a $30,000 settlement on Officer Daniel Pantaleo's behalf

New York Police Department officer Daniel Pantaleo, who allegedly used what has been termed a chokehold on the now deceased 43-year-old Eric Garner in Staten Island last week, previously had civil rights lawsuits brought against him over two separate incidents, the Staten Island Advance reports.

In the first suit, two men, Darren Collins and Tommy Rice — both in their forties and African-American — claim to have been publicly strip-searched by Pantaleo and a cadre of other officers two years ago, after Pantaleo said he saw crack cocaine and heroin on the backseat of their car. In the second, Rylawn Walker charged Pantaleo and another cop with falsely arresting him, then incarcerating him for a period of 24 hours.

The City of New York doled out a $30,000 settlement to the two plaintiffs in the first lawsuit. Walker’s remains open.

With video of Officer Pantaleo grappling with Garner going viral over the last week, the NYPD’s decision to strip the officer of his gun and assign him to desk duty for the time being has failed to quell public concern. While it remains unclear what role the hold may have played in Garner’s death, many New Yorkers, including activist-pastor Rev. Al Sharpton, are calling for greater accountability.

MONEY real estate

NYC Apartment Building Will Have Separate Door for Lower Rent Tenants. What’s Up With That?

Rich door and poor door
New Yorkers are calling it the "poor door." Sarina Finkelstein—Marcus Lindström/Bronxgebiet/Getty Images

A new luxury high-rise on the Upper West Side of Manhattan will include a separate entrance for tenants in "affordable" housing units.

New York City has approved plans for a new luxury high-rise on the Upper West Side of Manhattan that will include a separate entrance for tenants in “affordable” housing, reports the New York Post. Even the conservative Post manages to see the class angle, calling this a plan for a “poor door.” (The quotation marks are the Post‘s.)

This controversy has been roiling in New York for a while. The Daily Mail unearths a 2013 quotation in a real-estate trade paper from the developer of another project (not the one on the West Side) defending separate entrances. It’s one for the ages:

‘No one ever said that the goal was full integration of these populations,’ said David Von Spreckelsen, senior vice president at Toll Brothers. ‘So now you have politicians talking about that, saying how horrible those back doors are. I think it’s unfair to expect very high-income homeowners who paid a fortune to live in their building to have to be in the same boat as low-income renters, who are very fortunate to live in a new building in a great neighborhood.’

Let’s keep the rich and not-so-rich in separate boats. Nice. You can make arguments for what the developers are doing here—here’s one—but, wow, that’s not it.

If you don’t live in New York and you aren’t familiar with the crazy real estate market here, this story might need a little translation. Your questions answered:

If the developers don’t want to mix different tenants, why include “affordable” units at all?

Because they are getting subsidies—pretty valuable ones—to build them.

There is not enough of any kind of housing in NYC, but housing for people with low-to-middle incomes is especially scarce. The long-term answer to that is to build lots more housing, and there’s a case to be made that building in NYC should just be a lot easier than it is. The fear on the other side is that new construction will mostly go to the luxury end of the market.

One stop-gap has been to encourage developers to encourage builders to include various kinds of affordable units in their projects. There may be tax benefits passed on to buyers of condos in buildings with affordable units, for example. The Upper West Side project, developed by a group called Extell, got zoning rights to build more units, says the blog West Side Rag, and Extell can sell those rights to other nearby developers.

West Side Rag also says the developer argues that, since the affordable units are in a separate part of the building, it legally must have its own entrance. That could have been avoided had the affordable units been mixed throughout the building. But this particular high-rise offers coveted views, including of the Hudson River. Spreading the units around would presumably have meant giving up some prime spots to affordable units, cutting profits for the developer.

What’s “affordable”?

To qualify for these units, a tenant would need to earn less than 60% of the area’s median income, adjusted for family size, says West Side Rag. For a family of four, that’s about $52,ooo a year. That’s twice the Federal poverty line and above the median U.S. household income, though making ends meet in NYC on that much, with a couple of kids, isn’t easy. That family could rent a two bedroom under this program for about $1,100 a month. So yeah, New York’s version of affordable is different than in other places.

TIME Crime

Mystery White Flags on Brooklyn Bridge Provoke Social Media Frenzy

"We will not surrender"

The New York Police Department has removed a pair of white flags that mysteriously replaced the American stars and stripes on top of the Brooklyn Bridge Tuesday morning.

While the unexplained security breach is under investigation by police, the incident has incited a slew of social media confusion and some conspiracy theories.

Has Brooklyn surrendered?

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams issued a statement that no, “We will not surrender our public safety to anyone, at any time.”

Were the flags in question actually American flags that had been whitewashed? Oren Yaniv of the Daily News said yes:

Even more suspiciously still, the police folded the flags in a ceremonial manner after taking them down:

While Adams is approaching the confusing stunt very seriously — “If flying a white flag atop the Brooklyn Bridge is someone’s idea of a joke, I’m not laughing. The public safety of our city is of paramount importance, particularly our landmarks and bridges that are already known to be high-risk targets.” — others online are taking a lighter approach.

It’s a marketing stunt for a little-remembered British singer of the 1990s:

Some thought it was a message from the borough on the other side of the bridge:

Others speculated what Brooklyn might be giving in to:

If it helps, public officials aren’t sure either. In the words of an NYPD Deputy Commission for Public Information officer to Business Insider, “We don’t know anything.”

TIME career

Here’s a Really Original Way to Quit a Soul-Crushing Job

A young lawyer finally gets up the courage to quit her job and follow her creative passion--cartooning. Here's how she did it.

It’s a familiar story: the graduate who takes the safe route after college – going along an established career path to a comfortable job, and maybe letting some former passions fall by the wayside. One day they wake up and realize that they never play the guitar any more, or they don’t write as much as they used to, and suddenly their job doesn’t seem so fulfilling.

What isn’t so familiar is when people actually do something about their regrets. Catherine, a New York lawyer in her early 30’s, knew she needed to make a change. So she quit her job at a high-powered law firm to pursue art- and documented it all in cartoons.

Laywer Cartoons Departure Memo
“Catherine”—departurememo.com

Catherine’s website departurememo.com is a cartoon strip that depicts her battle—spanning across multiple years and two cities—to keep her passion for painting alive in the world of finance law, and her eventual decision to pursue that passion full-time. (Catherine chose not to reveal her full name to avoid harming her past employer’s reputation.)

“Art is something that I’ve always enjoyed doing,” Catherine tells TIME. “It’s enough of a constant throughout my life that I’ve really gotten to thinking in the past few years that maybe this is something more than what I do when I have free time.”

Her website also documents that her entry into the legal world was less than enthusiastic. “Like many of my friends and classmates and colleagues, I had gone to law school fairly aimlessly in my mid-20s with no real plan other than the well-beaten path: do appreciably (if not well), Biglaw, pay off loans, then see where the cards fell,” departurememo.com reads.

Lawyer Cartoons Departure Memo
“Catherine”—departurememo.com

However, as her illustrated memo shows, the “well-beaten path” didn’t suit Catherine very well, and the time she had to dedicate to her life-long passion for art became minimal. “People here are really talented. Unfortunately, for many people, the talents from our past lives now merely take the form of s**t we hang on our walls. It’s the ‘used to’ syndrome,” she writes on her website.

This problem led to her decision to make a career change, and the comic seemed the most fitting way to explain it. “I had a few exchanges that I’ve memorialized in the memo that seemed to me to be too funny, or I just felt that they would work really well in a kind of comic format,” Catherine says. “I felt that it would be relatable. I wanted to do something funny and memorable that the people would enjoy.”

Lawyer Cartoons Departure Memo
“Catherine”—departurememo.com

She sent it to a couple dozen of her co-workers and hoped word of mouth would spread the cartoon around her office. The results were more successful than she’d anticipated. The website was even featured in Yahoo and the legal blog “Above the Law.” She says, “Apparently it struck a chord with a lot of people. I’m just really impressed, really amazed at the reception it got, how far and wide it’s been passed around.”

Catherine’s memo is not the first creative representation for quitting a job. Last September, 25-year-old Marina Shifrin filmed a dance video to Kanye West’s “Gone” to explain her decision to quit her animation job. “For almost two years I’ve sacrificed my relationships, time and energy for this job,” Shifrin wrote in the video.

“Everyone’s had to cancel plans, been pushed into projects that are a mismatch for their interests, worked terrible hours, and so forth,” Catherine said. “Probably quite a few people have wished they could say what was really on their mind when they left, but few do.”

For those like Shifrin who might find the cartoon all too relatable, Catherine has some advice. “I think that there is so much talent out there, and people should absolutely cultivate their talents…and spend time supporting other artists and creative people,” she says. “Everyone can make something, but if we don’t spend time supporting one another, then it’s kind of a dead end for everyone.”

Catherine will find her own creative support community in a month-long artists’ residency program before returning to San Francisco, where she has settled. “Basically the plan there is to clear my head and paint, really not to have to worry about too much else other than figuring out with paintbrushes and paint what I have to say at this point,” she says. “And I’m really open to whatever may come.”

Lawyer Cartoons Departure Memo
“Catherine”—departurememo.com

 

MONEY alternative assets

New York Proposes Bitcoin Regulations

Bitcoin (virtual currency) coins
Benoit Tessier—Reuters

New regulations may make Bitcoin safer. But some people think they will also ruin what made virtual currencies attractive.

Bitcoin may have just taken a huge step toward entering the financial mainstream.

On Thursday, Benjamin Lawsky, superintendent for New York’s Department of Financial Services, proposed new rules for virtual currency businesses. The “BitLicense” plan, which if approved would apply to all companies that store, control, buy, sell, transfer, or exchange Bitcoins (or other cryptocurrency), makes New York the first state to attempt virtual currency regulation.

“In developing this regulatory framework, we have sought to strike an appropriate balance that helps protect consumers and root out illegal activity—without stifling beneficial innovation,” wrote Lawsky in a post on Reddit.com’s Bitcoin discussion board, a popular gathering places for the currency’s advocates.

“These regulations include provisions to help safeguard customer assets, protect against cyber hacking, and prevent the abuse of virtual currencies for illegal activity, such as money laundering.”

The proposed rules won’t take effect yet. First is a public comment period of 45 days, starting on July 23rd. After that, the department will revise the proposal and release it for another round of review.

Regulation represents a turning point in Bitcoin’s history. The currency is perhaps best known for not being subject to government oversight and has been championed (and vilified) for its freedom from official scrutiny. Bitcoin transactions are anonymous, providing a new level of privacy to online commerce. Unfortunately, this feature has also proven attractive to criminals. Detractors frequently cite the currency’s widely publicized use as a means to sell drugs, launder money, and allegedly fund murder-for-hire.

The failure of Mt. Gox, one of Bitcoin’s largest exchanges, following the theft of more than $450 million in virtual currency, also drew attention to Bitcoin’s lack of consumer protections. In his Reddit post, Lawsky specifically referenced Mt. Gox as a reason why “setting up common sense rules of the road is vital to the long-term future of the virtual currency industry, as well as the safety and soundness of customer assets.”

New York’s proposed regulations require digital currency companies operating within the state to record the identity of their customers, including their name and physical address. All Bitcoin transactions must be recorded, and companies would be required to inform regulators if they observe any activity involving Bitcoins worth $10,000 or more.

The proposal also places a strong emphasis on protecting legitimate users of virtual currency. New York is seeking to require that Bitcoin businesses explain “all material risks” associated with Bitcoin use to their customers, as well as provide strong cybersecurity to shield their virtual vaults from hackers. In order to ensure companies remain solvent, Bitcoin licensees would have to hold as much Bitcoin as they owe in some combination of virtual currency and actual dollars.

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, two of Bitcoin’s largest investors, endorsed the new proposal. “We are pleased that Superintendent Lawsky and the Department of Financial Services have embraced bitcoin and digital assets and created a regulatory framework that protects consumers,” Cameron Winklevoss said in an email to the Wall Street Journal. “We look forward to New York State becoming the hub of this exciting new technology.”

Gil Luria, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, also saw the regulations as beneficial for companies built around virtual currency. “Bitcoin businesses in the U.S. have been looking forward to being regulated,” Luria told the New York Times. “This is a very big important first step, but it’s not the ultimate step.”

However, this excitement was not universally shared by the internet Bitcoin community. Soon after posting a statement on Reddit, Lawsky was inundated with comments calling his proposal everything from misguided to fascist. “These rules and regulations are so totalitarian it’s almost hilarious,” wrote one user. Others suggested New York’s proposal would increase the value of Bitcoins not tied to a known identity or push major Bitcoin operations outside the United States.

One particularly controversial aspect of the law appears to ban the creation of any new cryptocurrency by an unlicensed entity. This would not only put a stop to virtual currency innovation (other Bitcoin-like monies include Litecoin, Peercoin, and the mostly satirical Dogecoin) but could theoretically put Bitcoin’s anonymous creator, known by the name Satoshi Nakamoto, in danger of prosecution if he failed to apply for a BitLicense.

One major issue not yet settled is whether other states, or the federal government, will use this proposal as a model for their own regulations. Until some form of regulation is widely adopted, New York’s effort will have a limited effect on Bitcoin business. “I think ultimately, these rules are going to be good for the industry,” Lawsky told the Times. “The question is if this will spread further.”

TIME Music

In Semi-Defense of “Brooklyn Girls”

Catey Shaw isn't really singing about Brooklyn

+ READ ARTICLE

If you saw the video above, Catey Shaw’s “Brooklyn Girls,” on the Internet yesterday, you probably figured out that it was instantly hated — and not because of the song or the singer, because of the subject matter. Its presentation of the much-beloved and much-maligned New York City borough is enough to make residents want to leave, apparently.

But Catey Shaw isn’t actually singing about Brooklyn the place. She’s singing about Brooklyn the adjective. She says so herself, in a teaser video for the song: “The whole thing about a Brooklyn girl is you don’t have to be from Brooklyn,” she states, with an actual bird perched on her shoulder. “It’s more the whole idea of the strong female.”

And Marc Spitz, author of the recently released book Twee, sees what she means. He says the song called to mind the idea of “très Brooklyn,” the supposedly trendy French terminology for coolness — to the point that he first guessed the song and video were Swedish, with non-Brooklynites just imagining the place. (Though “Brooklyn Girls” is definitely not twee, Spitz writes about the relationship between the two, saying that “Brooklyn” and “twee” are often confused these days.) The reason why there’s been such a backlash, says Spitz, is that “anything that’s ‘Brooklyn’ is going to produce a backlash.”

“It’s an authenticity question. We haven’t really progressed that much since the ’90s; you have to be super sincere or else you’re going to get a lot of shit,” he says. “Now [Brooklyn] is kind of a faux neighborhood with a prefabricated culture.”

But once you see it that way — the faux neighborhood and the real neighborhood being different — Shaw’s song doesn’t seem worth the hate anymore. That’s because if you separate the idea of Brooklyn from the place where people live (myself included, full disclosure), Shaw is being authentic.

The pre-fab culture Spitz describes is a real thing, and she’s really singing about it with seeming sincerity. Though New York-based outlets are understandably upset (with some exceptions) that someone is capitalizing on their hometown in a such a lame fashion, it’s hard to be upset at someone commercializing an intentionally commercial concept. Moreover, it’s not like the idea-vs.-place struggle is new. Manhattanites figured out long ago that while feeling protective of your territory is one thing, getting upset about other people’s ideas of what that place means is pointless.

“You have to remember that everyone since the dawn of time has bitched about New York and what it’s become, but nobody owns New York,” Spitz says. “When Bob Dylan came here, they said the scene was dead. When the Dutch came, they probably said the scene was dead. One of the great and terrible things about New York is that we expect the real, and this is clearly not ‘the real’ — but also it’s bullshit to think that we own it.”

Just as Manhattan — like Paris and Los Angeles and Tokyo — has had to come to grips with existing as both a place and an idea at the same time, it’s too late to take back “Brooklyn,” even if the idea’s existence is still novel. “Personally, I lived on Bedford and Grand in 1992 and there was nothing there, and I go to Williamsburg now and I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone,” Spitz says. “The fact that any of this is happening is rather strange to me, even though I wrote a book about it.”

TIME Law

FAA Investigates Congressman’s Drone Wedding Video

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney in Capitol hill in 2013.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney in the Capitol in 2013. Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — The Federal Aviation Administration indicated Wednesday that it is investigating whether a video of a congressman’s wedding last month violated the agency’s ban on drone flights for commercial purposes.

The agency’s carefully worded statement doesn’t mention Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., by name, but said it was looking into “a report of an unmanned aircraft operation in Cold Spring, New York, on June 21 to determine if there was any violation of federal regulations or airspace restrictions.”

Maloney has acknowledged hiring a photographer to produce a video of his wedding using a camera mounted on a small drone. The wedding took place in Cold Spring on June 21. Maloney is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s aviation subcommittee, which oversees the FAA.

Top agency officials have testified extensively before Congress about their concern that commercial drones could collide with manned aircraft or injure people on the ground. Congress has been pressing the FAA to move faster on creating regulations that will allow commercial drones access to U.S. skies. The agency has been working on regulations for about a decade.

“On their wedding day, Sean and Randy were focused on a ceremony 22 years in the making, not their wedding photographer’s camera mounted on his remote control helicopter,” Stephanie Formas, spokeswoman for Maloney, said in a statement.

The FAA has approved a few limited commercial drone operations. But the agency has also been sending letters to commercial operators across the country — including other videographers and companies that hire videographers — to cease their drone flights or face fines.

One videographer, Raphael Pirker, challenged the $10,000 fine the FAA tried to level against him for flying a small drone in an allegedly reckless manner near the University of Virginia. An administrative law judge sided with Pirker, whose attorney argued the agency can’t ban commercial drone flights when it hasn’t formally adopted safety rules governing drone flights. The FAA has appealed the case to the five-member National Transportation Safety Board. A decision is expected this fall.

Formas, citing the judge’s ruling, said there was “no enforceable FAA rule” or regulation that applied to “a model aircraft like the helicopter used in the ceremony.”

The wedding photographer subcontracted Parker Gyokeres of Propellerheads Aerial Photography in Trenton, New Jersey, to shoot the video. Gyokeress posted outtakes of the wedding on his company’s website and created a YouTube video.

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