Playbook: Mayor talks endgame on pre-K tax; Obama in NYC to court Hillary donors

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By Azi Paybarah in New York City and Jimmy Vielkind in Albany, with Mike Allen in Washington

PRESIDENT OBAMA flies into JFK at 3:25 p.m., and out at 9:10 p.m., for a pair of $32,400-a-person Democratic fund-raisers. Each is billed as an intimate “discussion” where the president will take questions. At 5:15 p.m., he’ll raise money for the Democratic National Committee at the home of venture-capital mogul Alan Patricof and his wife, Susan -- bundlers for Hillary Clinton. At 7:30, Obama moves on to the Manhattan home of Tony James, Blackstone president and CEO, to raise money for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The DNC event is closed to the press. A print pool reporter will be let in for remarks at the top of the DSCC event, then escorted out for question time.

--The DNC invitation: “Susan & Alan Patricof and the Democratic National Committee cordially invite you to a discussion with special guest President Barack Obama … 4:30 – 6:00 pm … The home of Susan & Alan Patricof … Address upon RSVP … $32,400 Yes, I would like to attend the discussion.”

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--“PAGE SIX” – “Obama woos Clinton allies,” by Emily Smith: “While the president is flying in on Air Force One for the … chat … at Patricof’s home in front of just 26 people, … private equity and venture capital pioneer Patricof has made it clear the fund-raiser is not to bolster Obama, but to boost the Democratic National Committee ahead of a possible Clinton presidential run. An e-mail from Patricof to donors reads, … ‘Susan and I have been relatively quiet on the political front for the past several years following Hillary’s loss in the primary election for the Presidency in 2008 . . . While we, like all good Democrats, were supportive to President Obama afterwards, we decided early on not to take an active role in any of the campaign activities, including fund-raising.’

“But he added in the e-mail obtained by Politico, ‘The most effective way that we all can be helpful to Hillary, and the Democratic Party in general, is to make sure that the Democratic National Committee is as strong as possible if Hillary should decide to run in 2016.’” http://goo.gl/Tq7cb6

--BEN WHITE, in POLITICO’s “Morning Money: “Doesn't look like private equity executives are too upset with President Obama. … Despite the president's renewed call in his budget proposal to increase tax rates on the ‘carried interest’ profits enjoyed by private equity mangers, Blackstone President [Tony] James will host the president … James, a prominent Democrat often mentioned as a possible future Treasury secretary, will host the DSCC event at his Manhattan home. James has held similar events for the president in the past.”

FUN FACT TO TELL VISITORS -- Metro cover, “New York tops in mass transit use,” by Anna Sanders: “One-third of the mass transit trips in the United States are made in the five boroughs.” http://goo.gl/4M85as

PRE-K UPS AND DOWNS: The good news for the mayor is that the Assembly plans to include his plan in a preliminary budget plan, potentially giving him some leverage to negotiate a better deal with Governor Cuomo. But after a weekend building momentumfor the tax through rallies and church visits, a union that supported de Blasio's mayoral bid scrapped its plans for a radio ad urging voters to support the pre-K effort, Capital has learned.

Chirlane McCray abruptly canceled a planned trip to the state capitol Tuesday to lobby lawmakers for the proposal. City Comptroller Scott Stringer told reporters in Albany that the tax appeared to be a nonstarter. And the mayor himself reiterated that he would accept state funding in lieu of the permission to hike taxes, as long as the funding is sufficient. http://goo.gl/GzSndK

MAYOR ON THE AIR – Times p. A15, “Tense Moments in Mayor’s TV Interview,” by Michael M. Grynbaum and Nikita Stewart: “[A] half-hour interview on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ … turned tense at times, with Mr. de Blasio facing a barrage of pointed queries about his stance on charter schools and conceding at one point that his public-relations efforts needed to improve. … [T]he mayor was pressed repeatedly by Mika Brzezinski … about his decision to close … three charter schools … run by the head of the Success Academy Charter Schools, Eva S. Moskowitz, a longtime foe of Mr. de Blasio. …

“Asked if he was indulging in a personal vendetta, Mr. de Blasio pushed back strenuously, saying the city had approved the placement of five other charter schools to be run by Ms. Moskowitz in public school buildings, and he argued that the ones rejected by the city would have resulted in overcrowding and the displacement of some special-needs students. But when the mayor said he had ‘no hostility’ toward Ms. Moskowitz, one host, Joe Scarborough, interjected. ‘It does look like there is —‘ Mr. Scarborough began. ‘“Looks like”’ is an important word,” Mr. de Blasio replied. …

“In a sign that Mr. de Blasio is positioning himself for the endgame, … the mayor said … he would be willing to forgo his tax surcharge if Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo offered a long-term commitment of $500 million a year for city prekindergarten and after-school classes. ‘If we have a verifiable plan for five years at the dollar figures we need, we can accept that,’ Mr. de Blasio said, one of the first times that he had publicly shown a willingness to accept a funding mechanism that did not include higher taxes on city residents who earn $500,000 or more. The mayor said he was ‘absolutely open to an alternative that gets the job done … I’ve also said that I don’t believe, given the vagaries of Albany, that we’re going to have anything as verifiable and consistent as the tax plan I’ve put forward.’ … By the end of ‘Morning Joe,’ … Brzezinski posed for a picture wearing a button promoting the mayor’s prekindergarten plan.” http://goo.gl/ikmptd

PARTY WITH THE GREENBERGS: In the basement of the Smyth Hotel, de Blasio pollster Anna Greenberg hosted a party for the opening of her company’s new New York City office. The crowd was expansive. “I have friends here from kindergarten … and best friends from the de Blasio campaign,” Greenberg told the crowd. Stan Greenberg, chairman of the company, introduced himself modestly. “I am Anna’s dad,” he said to some laugher. “I spend most of my time being Rosa’s husband,” he said of his wife, Rep. DeLauro — inspire of the Hipsters for de Blasio event last year which took place at Rosco’s Pizza on Franklin Avenue and owned by Anna’s brother.

-- Also celebrating with Greenberg: De Blasio’s campaign manager Bill Hyer, one-time rival Mark Green, and strategist Dan Gerstein. Kathy Wylde was there early. Campaign vets working in City Hall arrived later: Emma Wolfe, Rebecca Katz and Mahen Gunaratna.

THE NEXT TARGET? “NYC Property Tax Change Seen Yielding $4 Billion Windfall,” by Bloomberg’s Martin Z. Braun: “Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vision of raising income taxes to pay for pre-kindergarten and after-school programs would generate $530 million a year. By revamping property taxes -- and taking on some of New York’s richest residents -- he could get eight times as much. … The real estate levy, the city’s biggest revenue source, uses a methodology that undervalues condominiums on Park Avenue, Central Park West and other enclaves of the wealthy; limits tax increases for owners in brownstone neighborhoods such as Greenwich Village and Park Slope; and shifts the heaviest burden to renters, many of them poor.

“While almost half of all city property value belongs to owners of one-, two- and three-family houses, they pay only 15 percent of the $21 billion in annual real-estate taxes, according to the Citizens Budget Commission, a business-backed watchdog. Making the system fairer could raise more than $4 billion a year, the … group said. …For example, a four-bedroom penthouse condo at 15 Central Park West with two fireplaces and a library sold for $88 million in 2012. That gave it an effective tax rate, or the levy divided by the property’s market value, of 0.07 percent. In Brooklyn’s Crown Heights, a less affluent neighborhood, a house that sold for $989,000 in August had an effective rate of 0.6 percent.” http://goo.gl/b9t41B

REAL ESTATE -- amNewYork cover, “HOUSE BROKE: Most NYers can’t afford their homes, apartments,” by David Uberti: “The Bronx was worst in the state with 57.6% of rental households paying more than the affordability threshold (30% or less of household income) in 2012, [per a report by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli]. Brooklyn … claimed the bottom spot with 46.7% of owner households footing an unaffordable bill, an 11.2% increase during that period. … The Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens are among the bottom-fifth of all counties statewide in both affordable rentals and homeownership. Staten Island is in the bottom-third. And in Manhattan, the city's most affordable borough to live in relative to income, 44% of rental and 27% of owner households pay higher-than-ideal rates.” http://goo.gl/SVH6Nn

THE TABS: Post, “MYSTERY ‘MR. ALI’: Iran link in missing plane – Bought tix for duo who used stolen passports” … Daily News, “WHERE IS IT? Still no trace of doomed airliner: Hunt for ‘Mr. Ali’ ticket buyer” … Newsday, “LIers Who Own Homes: 44% CAN’T AFFORD IT – State report shows stress on income.”

--Rupert Murdoch is 83 today.

THE $10 LATTE -- Budin, in Greenpoint -- Post’s Dana Schuster: “The drink’s foam is artfully swirled into a tree-like design and sprinkled with raw licorice powder imported from Denmark. … The lavish latte is made with imported beans ($24 per 12-ounce bag) roasted by Norwegian coffee master Tim Wendelboe, a 2004 World Barista Champion and 2005 World Tasting Champion. The licorice powder is ‘high class’ … and the brew is also mixed with steamed local organic milk and a special anise syrup imported from Denmark.” http://goo.gl/M69k7D

HIP HOP HONORS -- Capital’s Azi Paybarah: Rap legends Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Melle Mel, and others will be honored with a City Council proclamation, according to an advisory sent by Councilman Fernando Cabrera’s office. Tomorrow’s honorees also include Afrika Bambaata, Joe Conzo, Grand Wizard Theodore, Cutman LG, Rocky Bucano, Grandmaster Caz and Jorge Fable Pabon, and posthumously, Pete DJ Jone. … Dubbed the first commercially successful rapper, Blow’s 1980 self-titled album was the first in the genre to go gold, thanks to the song "The Breaks." …

-- Mel is credited with helping to write “The Message,” a 1982 song that quickly became one of rap’s enduring anthems. It also foreshadowed the genre’s ability to raise awareness of social challenges facing inner city residents. http://goo.gl/WCxObv

CAPITOL MOVES: Cornell University President David Skorton will step down to take the reins of the Smithsonian Institution, intuitively leaving open the chairmanship of the New York Racing Association when he leaves at the end of 2015. Kristi Gustafson Barlette is scaling back her role at the Albany Times-Union.

AD CAMPAIGN -– Capital’s Dan Goldberg: With three weeks remaining to sign up for a health insurance plan on the state's exchange, the city is investing about $330,000 in an advertising campaign to raise awareness and spur enrollment. More than half the ads will be in Spanish. A 2012 health department survey found that 40 percent of adults who speak Spanish as their primary language at home do not have health insurance. That's twice the rate of the city's population. http://capi.tl/1dJUhGc

GOP PRIMARY—Capital’s Jimmy VIelkind & Will Brunelle: With Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino winding up his first week as a declared gubernatorial candidate and Donald Trump scheduled to speak tonight in Syracuse, a majority of Republican county leaders remain uncommitted, a Capital survey shows. While it's still early in the nominating process, Astorino's multi-city launch last week took place without several key validators, including the county leaders representing Buffalo, Syracuse and Rochester. Still, the survey found public support representing roughly 25 percent of the weighted State Committee vote. At least 50 percent of the weighted vote remains publicly uncommitted. … the chairs of three Upstate counties representing around 22 percent of the weighted vote are waiting to see if Trump formally declares his candidacy. http://goo.gl/Nsxkbd

EVOLUTION OF A TALKING POINT –- Deputy mayor Anthony Shorris acknowledged on Monday that some of the Long Island College Hospital campus will be used to develop luxury condominiums, but added that far more health care will remain for the community than had the mayor not intervened. This is one more step in the evolution of a talking point. While the community and many Brooklyn pols including Public Advocate Letitia James pine for a full-service hospital, the de Blasio administration is ratcheting back expectations and signaling it is fine with a downsized version. “I think you'll see, I believe, some substantial health care there, whether it's a 24-hour emergency room, whether it's ambulatory surgery facilities, whether it's primary care services, maybe long-term care services,” Shorris said. http://capi.tl/1h8myoX

THE TALK OF WALL STREET – “Chobani seeks to sell stake at $2.5 billion valuation,” by Olivia Oran: “Chobani … is looking to sell a minority stake in a deal that could value the company at around $2.5 billion … The company is working with Bank of America Corp as it considers selling roughly 20 percent, and is speaking to consumer companies and private equity firms to gauge their interest … Chobani [is] based in New Berlin, New York [Chenango County] … Founded in 2005 by Turkish immigrant Hamdi Ulukaya, Chobani started operating from a former Kraft Food yogurt plant in South Edmeston, New York, and grew into one of the top-selling Greek yogurt brands in the United States. … Greek-style yogurt … now makes up more than 40 percent of the U.S. yogurt market.” http://goo.gl/O2Z9Vu

THE HOME TEAMS -- Capital’s Howard Megdal: Nets 101, Raptors 97: Paul Pierce's fifth steal of the game was the biggest, ending a Raptors possession that could have given them the lead with 30 seconds left. The Nets are now only three games back in the Atlantic Division.

--Knicks 123, Sixers 110: Four Knicks scored 20+ points apiece: Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway. The Sixers have now lost 17 in a row.

--Manhattan 71, Iona 68: George Beamon and the Jaspers will go to the NCAA tournament, and could give some 4/5 seed a scare.

Pretty sure Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins hit the longest home run in Port St. Lucie history, against the Mets.

AFTER NATE SILVER, ‘THE UPSHOT’ -- Quartz’s John McDuling: Upshot is the name of the Times digital journalism venture launched in the wake of Nate Silver’s depature for ESPN. McDuling spoke to the Times’ David Leonhardt who is in charge of The Upshot. He will “have a dedicated staff of 15, including three full-time graphic journalists, and is on track for a launch this spring. ‘The idea behind the name is, we are trying to help readers get to the essence of issues and understand them in a contextual and conversational way,” Leonhardt says. “Obviously, we will be using data a lot to do that, not because data is some secret code, but because it’s a particularly effective way, when used in moderate doses, of explaining reality to people.’” http://goo.gl/9HVpXO

#UpstateAmerica: “Two SUNY Brockport students have been charged with torturing and injuring an animal after a photo was posted online of a dog being held upside down above a beer keg, appearing to drink from the tap.” http://goo.gl/4AsM4q