Albany Legislature looms over Adams' plans for second year in office

  • In Politics
  • 2023-01-27 10:01:00Z
  • By Politico

NEW YORK - Mayor Eric Adams gushed over Gov. Kathy Hochul five times in his written State of the City remarks - and he ad-libbed a few more upon delivering the address from the stage of the Queens Theatre Thursday.

"In her State of the State address, Governor Hochul committed to providing more tools for New York City to build the housing we need. I want to thank the governor for her leadership and support," he said, with Hochul seated in the front row. "On so many issues, she has been there for our city right from the start.

It was notable to those who experienced the open warfare between their respective predecessors Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio: former City Councilmember David Greenfield declared it "a new day in New York."

Hochul, who has been having a tough time in Albany as of late, responded well to the love: "Since day one, I vowed to usher in a new era of collaboration and leadership with the mayor, and I look forward to our continued partnership to create a brighter, safer and more prosperous future for New York City," she said in a prepared statement, which began with her referring to her downstate counterpart as "my friend and partner."

Left unsaid was the lack of similar warmth from the two legislative leaders, who hold much of the fate of Adams' ambitious agenda in their conferences.

Neither state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, nor Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, attended their fellow Democrat's speech. Heastie was recovering from a minor medical procedure and Stewart-Cousins was busy in her home district of Yonkers, their respective aides explained. Heastie got a friendly shout-out from the mayor; Stewart-Cousins did not - an omission Adams' aides urged reporters not to read into.

Their absence came on the heels of his open criticism of them in an interview last month with POLITICO. During the sit-down, a clearly-frustrated Adams compared them unfavorably to the governor in terms of state support as the city grappled with an influx of tens of thousands of asylum seekers from South America.

"When I talk about Albany and the lack of resources coming from Albany, there are three bodies up there. Where are the other bodies? We're not hearing anything," he said. Through representatives, they expressed similar displeasure with Adams - a former state Senator who was aligned with some members of a breakaway faction of Democrats that empowered with Republicans.

Despite the chilly pasts, the leaders offered pleasant - albeit brief - responses to his speech.

"Always glad to work with the mayor," a Senate spokesperson said in a text message, responding to a request for response. An Assembly representative said Heastie would offer his thoughts after a planned hearing Monday on the state's bail reform laws, to which Adams intends to send a City Hall official.

"It was a strong address, and identified priorities that state legislators should support," state Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal (D-Manhattan) said in a brief interview. "I hope that we can work with his team in Albany to make sure that New York City gets its fair share of state funding."

Hoylman, who will co-chair Monday's hearing, said he wants more information on the effects of Albany's 2019 reforms to state bail laws before weighing in on the changes Adams is seeking.

"Any changes that are contemplated have to be data-driven and not based on emotion or headlines," he said, noting the mayor needs "a lot" from the Legislature to accomplish his agenda.

"Frankly, he's got to bring his A game to Albany," he added. "He's got to do better [than last year] because the stakes are even higher."

Adams vociferously rejects criticism of his handling of Albany last year, improvising a defense in his speech on Thursday. He received support for some of his less-controversial requests around expanding an income tax credit and establishing a land trust for public housing, but did not persuade lawmakers to alter bail laws or reinstate a property tax break on new development.

In his speech Thursday, he highlighted several things for which he would need state support: Converting commercial space to residential, increasing penalties against dangerous driving and tackling recidivism.

"Time after time, we see crime after crime from a core group of repeat offenders," Adams said. "There are roughly 1,700 offenders that are responsible for a disproportionate amount of violent crime in our city. These are New York's 'Most Wanted.' We know who they are, and we need to get them off our streets."

He said he would "work with our partners in Albany to find reasonable, evidence-based solutions to this recidivism crisis" and acknowledged cash bail can be unfair to those who can least afford to post it.

"But we should also agree that we cannot allow a small number of violent individuals to continue terrorizing our neighbors over and over again," he added.

He did not detail exactly how he wants to change state laws, other than to call for reforms to speed up the discovery process and vowed to allot funding for district attorneys and public defenders.

"This is something we can all agree on," he said. "Let's get it done in 2023."

Jon Paul Lupo, who oversaw intergovernmental affairs for de Blasio, said the mayor's relationship with Hochul will prove fruitful in the upcoming legislative session.

"The amount of praise the mayor gave Governor Hochul shows how well they've worked together and how indispensable she will be as the mayor tries to navigate an uneven relationship with the Legislature, where so many of his priorities have deep-seated opposition," said Lupo, who worked on an opposing mayoral campaign.

Indeed Heastie has been hesitant to overhaul bail laws he ushered in, and Assemblymember Latrice Walker (D-Brooklyn) - the chief architect of those reforms - called the mayor's proposals "dead on arrival" for her, but acknowledged they will go through a full legislative review.

"I believe that the mayor is overreaching with respect to bail," Walker said. "He wants to go back in and change a law that would affect 20.2 million New Yorkers across the state for 1,700 people."

She said the mayor can tackle recidivists "who are wreaking havoc on our city" through precision policing, rather than "to deny due process for individuals by trying to change the least restrictive measures, which is a standard that is a federal constitutional standard on bail."

Walker also agreed with Adams' calls for a more streamlined discovery process, and said she's calling for $300,000 from the Hochul administration to study the desired reforms.

Others, including Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar, applauded his position on bail.

"The small number of people - 1,700 people committing the violent crimes - and there are 1,500 seriously mentally ill people on the streets and subways. That is a solvable problem in a city of almost 9 million people," said Kathy Wylde, president of the business trade group Partnership for New York City. "This isn't about changing the bail laws, per se. This is about looking where we're missing the boat and fixing it."

The speech, prepared by hundreds of city employees, was written by chief speechwriter Marjorie Sweeney and the production was led by senior adviser Anthony Hogrebe and deputy chief of staff Madeline Labadie.

Anna Groenwold contributed to this report.


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