Tag Archives: Kathy Hochul

NY Governor Hochul Announces Start of Construction of State’s First Offshore Wind Project

South Fork Wind Project to Kickstart New York’s Offshore Wind Industry, Provide Clean Energy to Long Island

Supports the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act Goal to Develop 9,000 Megawatts of Offshore Wind by 2035

Back in 2017, Long Island advocates for offshore windpower cheered the Long Island Power Authority for contracting to move forward with wind energy and begin to move away from fossil-fuel powered energy.Then the Trump Administration reversed course. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul, alongside United States Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and other elected officials, on February 11 celebrated the start of construction of South Fork Wind, New York’s first offshore wind project, jointly developed by Ørsted and Eversource off the coast of Long Island. Building on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) January issuance of the Final Sale Notice for the New York Bight, the recent key offshore wind contract milestone, and the State of the State announcement of a nation-leading $500 million investment in offshore wind ports, manufacturing, and supply chain infrastructure to accompany New York’s next offshore wind solicitation, New York continues to advance the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act goal to develop 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035.  

“The harsh impacts and costly realities of climate change are all too familiar on Long Island, but today as we break ground on New York’s first offshore wind project we are delivering on the promise of a cleaner, greener path forward that will benefit generations to come,” Governor Hochul said. “South Fork Wind will eliminate up to six million tons of carbon emissions over the next twenty-five years benefiting not only the Empire State, but our nation as a whole. This project will also create hundreds of good-paying jobs, helping spur economic growth across the region as we continue to recover from COVID-19. This is a historic day for New York, and I look forward to continue working with Secretary Haaland as we lead our nation toward a greener, brighter future for all.”  

“America’s clean energy transition is not a dream for a distant future – it is happening right here and now,” US Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said. “Offshore wind will power our communities, advance our environmental justice goals, and stimulate our economy by creating thousands of good-paying union jobs across the nation. This is one of many actions we are taking in pursuit of the President’s goal to improve both the lives of American families and the health of our planet.”

The Governor, who made today’s announcement in Wainscott, celebrated South Fork Wind kickstarting New York’s offshore wind generation when it becomes operational in late 2023. South Fork Wind will be one of the first commercial-scale offshore wind projects to commence operation in North America. Selected under a 2015 Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) request for proposals to address growing power needs on the east end of Long Island, the project will be located about 35 miles east of Montauk Point and its 12 Siemens-Gamesa 11 MW turbines will generate approximately 130 megawatts of power – enough to power over 70,000 homes. Its transmission system will deliver clean energy directly to the electric grid in the Town of East Hampton. Over a 25-year period, South Fork Wind is expected to eliminate up to six million tons of carbon emissions, or the equivalent of taking 60,000 cars off the road annually.

NYSERDA President & CEO Doreen M. Harris said, “With construction beginning on the South Fork Wind project, we are solidifying New York State’s clean energy vision and blazing a trail as we lead the nation in offshore wind development. As our state’s first offshore wind project, South Fork is helping to usher in the grid of the future as New York continues to build the most robust offshore wind project and supply chain in the nation, strengthen workforce development and partnerships with labor to provide a pipeline of talent for these critical projects, and establish the green economy that will power New York for years to come.”

Long Island Power Authority CEO Thomas Falcone said,”In 2017, the forward-thinking approach of the LIPA Board of Trustees led to the approval of the South Fork Wind project at a time when there were no other power purchase agreements for offshore wind in the country,” Long Island Power Authority CEO Thomas Falcone said. “As the first offshore wind farm in New York, South Fork Wind is the beginning of a new industry for our region that will be vital to New York meeting its goal of a zero-carbon electric grid by 2040.”

Indeed, the campaign to get offshore wind power for Long Island and New York State has been years in the making – activists had to battle back against efforts by fossil fuel industry to create NLG terminals in the very area the best in the nation for an offshore wind farm. But just as everything was in place, in 2017, Trump reversed course on promoting clean, renewable energy in favor of fossil fuel and even reignited the prospect of off-shore drilling. The Biden Administration moved swiftly to restart offshore windpower – in California and in New York, seeing the benefits of climate-action initiatives as not only protecting the environment and the economy but promoting jobs.

Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos said,”New York is setting the example for the nation on tapping into the potential of offshore wind to help meet our energy needs while the state transitions to a cleaner, greener energy future. South Fork Wind is an exciting and transformative project that will help achieve our state’s ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ramp up renewable energy sources while safeguarding our natural resources and driving new economic opportunities here on Long Island and across the state.” 

“South Fork Wind’s groundbreaking is a historic milestone for New York’s offshore wind industry and for all New Yorkers in our efforts to address climate change,” Acting Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said. “The Department of State continues to work with our stakeholders and government partners to minimize potential project impacts and avoid disruptions to our coastal economy as we transition to a cleaner, greener future. Through our combined efforts, New Yorkers will continue to enjoy Long Island’s pristine beaches and the rich ocean resources off our State as we reduce the State’s carbon footprint.”

“This significant milestone solidifies New York’s global leadership in the clean economy,” New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said. “The groundwork we lay today is creating new, exciting employment opportunities for New Yorkers while also protecting our environment for future generations. As Co-chair for the Just Transition Working Group, I thank Governor Hochul for leading the charge and for her unending commitment to ensuring the inclusion of disadvantaged communities in this movement.”

Public Service Commission Chair Rory M. Christian said, “The South Fork project will play a key role in developing much needed clean-energy for New York State and it will help New York achieve its nation-leading renewable energy goals while creating jobs and opportunities for individuals and industries. South Fork is a win for Long Island, and a win for all New Yorkers.”

Office of General Services (OGS) Commissioner Jeanette M. Moy said, “The start of the first off-shore wind project in New York State demonstrates Governor Hochul’s strong commitment to meeting the challenges of sustainability and ensuring New York’s future is green. OGS is proud to have a role in the South Fork Wind project and in advancing the State’s forward-looking climate and green-energy initiatives.”

“Offshore wind is crucial to fueling a green economy and promoting sustainable economic opportunities,” Empire State Development Acting Commissioner and President & CEO-designate Hope Knight said. “The start of construction at New York State’s first offshore wind project at South Fork Wind signifies at important step towards achieving clean energy goals and creating green jobs, which advances Empire State Development’s mission to prepare our economy for the future. With today’s announcement, New York State will continue to be leaders in the fight against climate change while strengthening our standing in offshore wind manufacturing.”

This milestone follows BOEM’s approval last month of the project’s Construction and Operations Plan (COP). The COP outlines the project’s one nautical mile turbine spacing, the requirements on the construction methodology for all work occurring in federal ocean waters, and mitigation measures to protect marine habitats and species. BOEM’s final approval of the COP follows the agency’s November 2021 issuance of the Record of Decision, which concluded the thorough BOEM-led environmental review of the project.

Senator Todd Kaminsky said,”Today’s announcement helps solidify New York as a leader in the green economy. The CLCPA set the most aggressive goals in the country and offshore wind on Long Island is central to meeting them. This project is a catalyst and shows that you can think big and get it done on Long Island.”

Assemblymember Steve Englebright said,”The South Fork Wind Project is a key first step to our state’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gases and meeting the challenge of climate change. I applaud Governor Hochul’s vision and determination to advance and enhance New York’s renewable wind energy portfolio.” 

Assemblymember Fred Thiele said,”I’m proud to say that Long Island is an emerging trailblazer in renewable energy and will soon lead the state and the nation in offshore wind energy production. South Fork Wind Farm opens an exciting new chapter for us here on the East End, and I look forward to soon having a greener grid powered by this historic investment. I thank Governor Hochul for her continuous leadership and support.”

“Long Island has been a leader in all things clean energy, and as we begin construction on New York’s first wind farm, we are changing how we power our homes and businesses here in Suffolk,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said. ”This historic project, which puts Suffolk County at the heart of the offshore wind industry and will power roughly 70,000 homes, is a major victory for our economy, for labor, and for our environment as we remain committed to addressing the impacts of climate change on our region.”

East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said,”In 2014 East Hampton was the first municipality in New York to adopt a 100% renewable energy goal. Today, with the beginning of the construction of New York’s first offshore wind farm we are very close to reaching that goal. We applaud Governor Hochul’s nation leading investment in offshore wind energy which puts New York at the forefront of our country’s efforts to combat climate change.”

New York League of Conservation Voters President Julie Tighe said,Today, we are moving from concept to reality with the groundbreaking of South Fork Wind Farm, New York’s first offshore wind project. Congratulations to Ørstedand Eversource! This day is the culmination of years of perseverance to launch this project and new industry that will change the way we power our economy. We have a long way to go to meet our climate goals, but major investments like this combined with the leadership and commitment of Governor Hochul, Secretary Haaland, and BOEM Director Lefton are setting us on the course for a clean energy revolution.”

“With the start of construction on New York’s first offshore wind farm, we continue to deliver on our vision of a new U.S. energy industry that will generate clean power, jobs, and economic opportunity,” Ørsted Offshore North America CEO David Hardy said. “I am grateful for the many champions who have supported South Fork Wind to get us to this critical moment, and for the Biden Administration and New York’s leadership and commitment to the offshore wind industry.”

Eversource Energy President & CEO Joe Nolan said, “Today we make history as we celebrate the start of construction on New York’s first offshore wind farm. As homegrown experts in regional energy transmission, we have led the way on countless infrastructure projects, but today, we commemorate something entirely new and different. For the very first time, we will be leveraging our expertise to harness the vast, untapped potential of offshore wind.”

Nassau Suffolk Building and Construction Trades Council President Marty Aracich said, “The start of the construction phase for Offshore Wind marks a new era in reaching New York State’s goal of significantly reducing emissions. The skilled trades have a role by placing shovels in the ground as they implement the last leg of this relay race and position NYS to reign supreme along the Eastern Seaboard in combating climate change. Governor Hochul’s shared vision and commitment with NYSERDA enhances the alliance of Orsted/Eversource and North America’s Building Trades Unions. New York State remains focused on providing opportunities that will create a local workforce leading to a brighter, cleaner future for generations to come. Many thanks to Governor Hochul, Secretary of Interior Deb Harland, Amanda Lefton, Doreen Harris, and our partners in Labor for providing leadership as well as a moral compass guiding the earth on a path to heal itself.”

Long Island Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO President John R. Durso said,”This is a victory for Long Island and all New Yorkers. This is not only a crucial step forward in the fight against climate change, but it means jobs and new clean energy resources on Long Island where it is needed most. After many years of hard work in planning and development by Ørsted and Eversource, with support from labor and community allies, we are realizing the success we have all been waiting for.”

South Fork Wind will be built under industry-leading project labor agreements and specific partnerships with local union organizations, ensuring local union labor’s participation in all phases of construction on the project. Onshore construction activities for the project’s underground duct bank system and interconnection facility are the first to begin and will source construction labor from local union hiring halls. Ørsted and Eversource reached these provisions and protections working closely with a range of external organizations and experts, a commitment the companies carry to all stakeholder relationships to support coexistence.

Long Island-based contractor Haugland Energy Group LLC (an affiliate of Haugland Group LLC) was selected to install the duct bank system for the project’s underground onshore transmission line and lead the construction of the onshore interconnection facility located in East Hampton. This agreement will create more than 100 union jobs for Long Island skilled trades workers, including heavy equipment operators, electricians, lineworkers, and local delivery drivers who will support transportation of materials to the project site. Fabrication of the project’s offshore substation is already underway.

New York State has five offshore wind projects in active development, the largest portfolio in the nation. This current portfolio totals more than 4,300 megawatts and will power more than 2.4 million New York homes, and it is expected to bring a combined economic impact of $12.1 billion to the state. The projects are also expected to create more than 6,800 jobs in project development, component manufacturing, installation, and operations and maintenance. Achieving the State’s 9,000 megawatt by 2035 goal will generate enough offshore wind energy to power approximately 30 percent of New York State’s electricity needs, equivalent to nearly 6 million New York State homes, and spur approximately 10,000 jobs.

New York State’s Nation-Leading Climate Plan

New York State’s nation-leading climate agenda is the most aggressive climate and clean energy initiative in the nation, calling for an orderly and just transition to clean energy that creates jobs and continues fostering a green economy as New York State recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Enshrined into law through the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, New York is on a path to achieve its mandated goal of a zero-emission electricity sector by 2040, including 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030, and to reach economy wide carbon neutrality.

It builds on New York’s unprecedented investments to ramp-up clean energy including over $33 billion in 102 large-scale renewable and transmission projects across the state, $6.8 billion to reduce buildings emissions, $1.8 billion to scale up solar, more than $1 billion for clean transportation initiatives, and over $1.6 billion in NY Green Bank commitments. Combined, these investments are supporting nearly 158,000 jobs in New York’s clean energy sector in 2020, a 2,100 percent growth in the distributed solar sector since 2011 and a commitment to develop 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035.

Under the Climate Act, New York will build on this progress and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent from 1990 levels by 2050, while ensuring that at least 35 percent with a goal of 40 percent of the benefits of clean energy investments are directed to disadvantaged communities, and advance progress towards the state’s 2025 energy efficiency target of reducing on-site energy consumption by 185 trillion BTUs of end-use energy savings.

Governor Hochul Unveils Budget for Bold Agenda to ‘Embrace This Moment of Possibility, Redefine New York’s Destiny’

NYS Governor Kathy Hochul: “This is a moment of a great possibility, a once-in-a-generation chance to reconsider what is possible for our state. And this really is the beginning of New York’s next great comeback. I declared a New Era for New York, and it continues today.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

NYS Governor Kathy Hochul: “This is a moment of a great possibility, a once-in-a-generation chance to reconsider what is possible for our state. And this really is the beginning of New York’s next great comeback. I declared a New Era for New York, and it continues today.”

This is a highlighted transcript of New York State Governor Kathy Hochul’s budget message:

Two weeks ago in my State of the State speech, I proposed a whole new era for New York. One in which my administration, my fellow statewide elected officials and the legislature will finally work together to deliver for New Yorkers. But before I deliver our positive budget trends, let’s look at another trend, which is increasingly positive.

Today, positive COVID cases are at 22,312 down 75% from our peak of 90,132 on January 7th, less than two weeks ago and that’s incredible. And cases dropped 34% in the last seven days while cases across the rest of the United States went down only by five percent. Our positivity rate is down to 12.48%, nearly an 11% drop from the peak on January 2nd and hospitalizations continue to trend downward as well.

So we hope to close the books on this winter surge soon. So we can turn the page and open the book on our 2023 budget outlook and focus on the post pandemic future. As I said, since I took office 147 days ago, my top priority is to confront this pandemic head-on and to save lives, protect the health of New Yorkers and protect the health of our economy.

But we also must pass a bold agenda that’ll do more than just help us recover from this crisis. We need to embrace this moment of possibility and use it to redefine New York’s destiny. How? First by rebuilding our healthcare and teacher workforces, providing tax relief to those who need it the most, speeding up economic growth and creating good paying middle-class jobs, strengthening our infrastructure and confronting climate change, securing public safety and protecting our communities, making housing more affordable and ensuring every New Yorker has a roof over their head, enacting bold reforms that will restore trust in state and we’re changing the culture and creating workplaces that are free of harassment.

This is an extraordinary time and it will be met with extraordinary solutions. The policies I laid out two weeks ago are ambitious, but as I said, just as importantly, they’re realistic and achievable. And we’re in a position to fully fund them by making historic investment,  like record aid to education, the biggest capital plan for infrastructure that our state has ever seen, and a groundbreaking program to rebuild the healthcare industry. But we’re also being smart and responsible recognizing that we need to fund our reserves to historic levels as well. So I’m proud to say that today we are submitting a balanced executive budget for fiscal year 2023 to the legislature.

Our state is in a strong financial position due to a combination of factors, increased tax receipts, a thriving stock market, and an influx of federal aid through the American rescue plan and the infrastructure act, some of which have already been received, some with more still to come. Looking forward, our base level forecasts are equally optimistic.

We predict we’ll be able to continue to balance the budget and be able to make these types of bold but necessary investments all the way through fiscal year 2027. And this is a big change from where we were just this time last year. When the division of budget projected deficits totaling $17 billion during that same timeframe.

So this is a once in a generation opportunity to make thoughtful, purpose-driven investments in our state and in our people that will pay dividends for decades. And that’s exactly what my budget will do.

But this is also about meeting New Yorkers where they are now, frustrated by a persistent pandemic, anxious about rising prices for everything from milk to gas to housing, worried about whether or not their paycheck will be enough to make ends meet and stressed, most of all, about their kids, the quality of their education, affordability of childcare, and even thoughts about what their future will be in a world beset by climate change.

So New Yorkers, this budget is for you and about you. And how I propose to use the entirety of our $216 billion budget to directly address the immediate needs of New Yorkers and at the same time positively impact people’s lives and livelihoods for decades to come first. First, we’ll respond to this pandemic head-on by following the science and the data, and doing whatever it takes to ensure that our recovery is swift and far-reaching.

That’s why we’ve set aside $2 billion for pandemic recovery initiatives. I’ll work with the legislature to identify the most impactful use of these funds in the short term, whether that’s held for struggling, small landlords and their tenants, or the hardest hurt industries and workers, or for other purposes.

Now let’s talk about putting more money back into people’s pockets. Rather than raise taxes, this is about tax relief. Accelerating a $1.2 billion tax cut originally scheduled to take effect between 2023 and 2025. This [means] way more than 6 million middle-class taxpayers getting their much-needed money a lot sooner.

At a time when inflation is robbing families of long awaited gains and income, and recognizing that property taxes are still too high, we will provide a $2 billion property tax rebate to more than 2 million middle-class homeowners. And we’re delivering $250 million in tax credits for small businesses to help them pay for COVID related expenses.

In addition to that, we’re having new support for farms and other small businesses, hit so hard by this pandemic. We need to help them not just survive, but to thrive. And using the unprecedented fusion of money from our leaders in Washington, starting with President Joe Biden, New York will see the largest investment in our state infrastructure ever through a $32.8 billion capital plan.

The boldness I outlined in my State of the State address will be realized. I’m putting the dollars behind making long-term overdo repairs to our roads, and our bridges, building new transit options, modernizing existing transit and hubs and revitalizing communities. I’ve also declared war on potholes. So here’s the first shot across the bow: a $1 billion plan called Operation POP: Pave Our Potholes, and this strategy takes us from potholes to not-holes. For me, infrastructure is a quality of life issue. It’s about creating connections, connecting neighborhoods, connecting people to jobs, connecting people to their family members and loved ones. And we’ll finally be able to strengthen those bonds across our state, using cash rather than borrowing money. So future generations are not hamstrung by the commitments we make today.

One way we’ll do that is by reconnecting neighborhoods that were severed by asphalt highways, and these all disproportionally impacted communities of color, like the Kensington Expressway in Buffalo, I-81 in Syracuse, the Inner Loop in Rochester, and the Cross Bronx Expressway. 

And one hard lesson we learned about what happens when there’s a lack of investment is how our healthcare system crumbled under the stress of the pandemic.

And that’s why we’re making up for lost time and positioning the state to have better footing going forward with the largest investment in healthcare in State history, $10 billion. One of our shared values as New Yorkers is that everyone deserves the dignity of access to quality health care, especially during a public health crisis. In my State of the State speech, I promise to start by rebuilding our healthcare workforce. They’re the heroes of this pandemic, so let’s stop talking about the debt we owe them, and actually pay them what they deserve. And that includes more than $1 billion in bonuses. We’ll also work to rebuild our medical facilities, nursing homes, and hospitals, which have been crushed by this pandemic, through a $1.6 billion capital program to help them make much needed upgrades.

We’re also going to invest in education, strengthening our teacher workforce and supporting students’ mental health. We’ll provide more than $31 billion in aid for our schools. Continuing our commitment to fully fund education and foundation aid. And that brings us to the highest level the State has invested in education ever. And this should be used to continue expanding our pre-K program to school districts all across the state, and for much needed after school programs. Because working parents need all the support they can get. We’re also increasing our investments in childcare, to more than $1.4 billion. This will make 400,000 more families eligible for childcare subsidies, and we’ll invest more in childcare workers as well.

To boost our economy, we’ll make significant investments in our workforce development programs, support for small businesses, and the revitalization of downtowns across the state. So we can be the most worker friendly and business friendly state in the nation, with all the different engines of our economy firing in all cylinders. And we’ll ensure that the new businesses we’re going to draw to New York will have access to a well-trained and educated workforce. And how we do that is by making our statewide higher education system, the very best in the entire nation.

We’re going to increase operational support for SUNY and CUNY, the engines of social mobility, and we’re adding $1.5 billion over the next five years. And we’re investing $150 million into the expansion of the tuition assistance program, so it’s available to part-time students giving them a chance, which means more students won’t have to choose between work and getting their degree. We’ll also make that assistance available to people in prison as part of our jails-to-jobs initiative.

And we’re going to confront that climate crisis with the urgency that is required. That’s why my budget includes $4 billion for the landmark Clean Water Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond act, in the largest ever investment in the Environmental Protection Fund. We must speed up our transition to clean energy and you are we’ll lead the way by making a nation-leading $500 million investment in offshore wind energy.

And we have to confront the housing affordability crisis. And one way we’ll do that is by advancing a new $25 billion five-year housing plan to create and preserve 100,000 affordable homes, including 10,000 homes with supportive services for vulnerable populations. And everyone deserves to feel safe on the streets, in schools, in their homes, and in their communities, and during their commutes, and in too many communities, they just don’t. So we’re going to prioritize public safety. Starting with $224 million investment into programs that will reduced gun violence and other programs to help children in our streets, and will confront the other public health crisis that is taking far too many New Yorkers lives and will take it on head-on because that is something that has destroyed the lives of too many of our loved ones.

So we’re going to make a $400 million dollar multi-year investment in opioid and substance abuse addiction service. Of course, this is just a small sampling of everything that’s included in the 2023 budget. But the bottom line is that we’ll make smart investments to ensure we not only recover from this pandemic, but emerge from it stronger than ever before.

And I want to be very clear. We’re going to do it by taking a fiscally responsible approach because we know that the federal funds will eventually run out. And that’s why we’re not banking on them for the future. We’re not creating recurring expenses or new programs we can’t pay for. So for the first time ever, with smart planning, New York will have no out year gaps.

All these commitments are either one-time expenditures or are supported by the expectation of a reasonable growth in revenue as projected by our division of budget. So we have the means to respond to this historic moment with a historic level of funding. And what we have achieved with the blueprint I’m printing today is both a plan that is socially responsible and fiscally prudent. And as I learned working on 14 balanced municipal budgets with much smaller numbers, but with the same philosophy, you have to prepare for the rainy days, even when there’s not a cloud in the sky, because of the rain – or where I come from, the snow, eventually does fall.

So we’re prepared for the downturns as well. Just remember where we were two years ago today, and suddenly how our world changed forever. As we assess the risks, we do have concerns about long-term economic erosion caused by the pandemic and the impact of inflation and even – hate to say it but possible resurgence of COVID. We just can’t predict the future. But I want to share New Yorkers that we are prepared.

And that’s why we’re making these investments with those worst case scenario calculations built in. And committing resources every year until the state has reserves of at least 15% of operating spending. That’s what the experts recommend, and it’s what we’re going to do. For the future leaders, for future generations, and for the future health of our state. But we’re not letting this once in a generation moment pass us by. It’s not simply enough to return to our pre pandemic world in way of life. That would be timid and unimaginative, and it would fail to honor our history and the legacy of the daring, visionary New Yorkers who came before us.

Leaders like FDR, who weathered some of the most intense storms the world has ever seen, always while keeping one eye fixed on the horizon, planning for the day when the clouds would part. And it wasn’t through sheer luck that the policies he passed during those crises made an immediate difference in the short-term and a generational impact in the long-term. Through careful and strategic planning. And he embraced those times of crisis for what they were, a chance to re-imagine the future while correcting the mistakes of the past. And we must now have the same foresight and resolve to do the same because this pandemic did not create all the problems we’re facing today.

It simply forced us to hold up a mirror and see the cracks in our society that have been too easy to ignore before. We cannot allow this virus to grip us so tightly that it constrains us from looking to the future or prevents us from mending those cracks. Since its founding, our state has been the home of the dreamers and the doers from all over the world who came here in pursuit of opportunity and a better life. But today for too many New Yorkers, the American dream is just that, a dream. And that has been even more true as a result of this pandemic.

As I said in my State of the State speech, it’s time for a better, fairer, and more inclusive version. And I’m calling it the New York dream. And by implementing the agenda I proposed two weeks ago, we can make it a reality. And this is with smart, strategic and a forward thinking plan, we will. This is a moment of great possibility. A once in a generation chance to reconsider what is possible for our state. And this really is the beginning of New York’s next great comeback.

I declared a new era for New York and it continues today. So New Yorkers, this budget’s for you. 

Cuomo Lays Out Ambitious Progressive Justice Agenda for 3rd Term, Draws Contrast With Federal Government Failures

Governor Andrew Cuomo delivering his inaugural address at Ellis Island: “I don’t fault our federal government for causing the underlying fear and frustration, but I fault them for something worse. I fault them for a failure of leadership and government malfeasance. I fault them, I fault them for manipulating and using the fear and deepening the divisions for their own political purpose.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

In an inaugural address worthy of a president, Andrew Cuomo, sworn in for his third term as Governor of New York State, pledged to fulfill an ambitious, progressive Justice Agenda: voting reform, strengthening gun laws, protecting health care, legalizing marijuana and reforming the criminal justice system. The venue was key to his message: the great hall at Ellis Island where millions of impoverished immigrants, the forebears of so many New Yorkers, escaped poverty and persecution to pursue the American Dream, and standing as the greatest symbol of difference with the federal administration.

The setting was relevant, as well, because the shutdown of the federal government, forced by Trump’s demand for billions of dollars to build a wall across the length of the southern border with Mexico, has caused a cascading series of closures at national parks and monuments, but New York State is paying to keep the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island open, and he used it as a symbol of what the state stands for and would strive for, and as a parable for the different approaches to leadership and governance.

Hallowed Ground: New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo gives his third inaugural address in the great hall of Ellis Island, where millions of immigrants passed through in pursuit of the American Dream © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Let New York say that the federal government may shut itself down, but it will never extinguish the Statue of Liberty’s torch. It will never erase the words of her poem. They will never close our harbor. They will never close our hearts. They will never close this hall of dreamers. They will never disrespect the legacy they left,” he declared.

 “When they write the history books about this time and place, I believe they will record this period as one of global and national unrest. A time that saw thousands of new immigrants reaching for our borders in search of hope. A time that saw troubled, frightened, American citizens frustrated by economic stagnation and a deteriorating democracy, have grave new doubts about where our country is headed. 

“There is now a fundamental questioning of the viability of the American promise. A covenant that created our nation’s founding 242 years ago and reached full flower right here in this Great Hall for our ancestors yearning to breathe free, illuminated by the torch of our great Lady in the Harbor. A land that would work with you to lift you up to reach new heights, as high as your wings and work could carry you, with individual freedom and equal rights for all. An American promise grounded on the theory that we would work together.

“This sacred compact has held firm through the centuries, through world wars, internal dissension, and economic depressions. Through it all, we overcame, we rallied as one, and we built the strongest nation on the globe. There is no other nation that can threaten us. America’s only threat is from within: it is the growing division amongst us. The threat is when we see ourselves as black or white, foreign or native born, instead of as Americans. As Christians or Jews or Muslims, gay or straight, instead of as Americans. That, my friends, is truly frightening.

“And that is the threat that we face today. As our nation once confronted a great economic depression, we now confront a great social depression. People’s frustration is turning to fear and the fear is turning to anger and the anger is turning to division. It is impossible to overstate how dangerous, how malignant this condition is. It is like a cancer that is spreading throughout our society, a disease that causes one cell in the body politic to attack other cells, to turn one against one another.”

He added, “It may surprise you, but I don’t fault our federal government for causing the underlying fear and frustration, but I fault them for something worse. I fault them for a failure of leadership and government malfeasance. I fault them, I fault them for manipulating and using the fear and deepening the divisions for their own political purpose.”

He said, The hard, but true path is to confront and actually solve the problem. The easy, but false path is to use the anger to blame someone else, and the easiest target to blame is always the people who are different. And this federal government has sought to demonize our differences and make our diversity our greatest weakness, rather than our greatest strength. We always knew, we always knew that the concept of E Pluribus Unum, forging one people from many different origins would be difficult, we knew it.”

In setting out his progressive agenda and to counter the skepticism that it could be accomplished, Cuomo noted that now that both houses of the Legislature are Democratic, “I feel liberated. I felt like I was fighting with one arm tied behind my back. And we will not repeat mistakes of the past. We know hollow campaign rhetoric and false political posturing only aggravates the frustration…

“New Yorkers know the difference between rhetoric and results. We either perform by delivering real solutions that restore hope and progress in people’s lives or we fail. It is that simple. Either the government works or the government doesn’t work. Either the government delivers or the government delivers. And if we don’t deliver, we fail. But, in New York failure is not an option, my friends.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo is sworn into his third term by Justice Janet DiFiore, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of the State of New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Cuomo, who has in his prior two terms done bold things on the scale of Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he was New York State governor, in fact, invoked FDR, saying, “Just as FDR turned the frustration of the economic depression into a movement that passed the New Deal, let New Yorkers’ frustration of the social depression to pass a new justice agenda – advancing social racial and economic justice – and let us address our issues, our very real issues with a progressive agenda – not a regressive agenda – an agenda that moves us up, forward and united, not down, backwards and divided.”

He laid out an ambitious agenda: “Within my first 100 days, I will propose to the new Democratic Legislature the most progressive agenda this state has ever seen, period.

“From voting reforms, to Roe v. Wade for New York, to protecting a woman’s right to choose. To better gun laws, to healthcare protection, to legalizing marijuana, to protecting the labor movement, to a green new deal, to real criminal justice reform – we will make history and New York will move forward. Not by building a wall, my friends, but by building new bridges, and building new airports, and creating new middle class jobs and an economic future for the next generation and showing us how good we can be at our best when we are together.”

Cuomo declared, “We will get it done. And it won’t just be what New York got done at this defining moment, but how we did it. The way we’re going to do it is by bringing people together. Democrats and Republicans. Upstate and downstate. Young and old. All of us together because we believe, in New York, that we can be a people truly guided by our better angels. Because New York believes that our interconnection and interdependence come from our essential goodness.

“It is New York’s duty, it is New York’s destiny, it is New York’s legacy to bring the light to lead the way through the darkness and I pledge to the people of the State of New York, that’s what we will do together.”

The setting was relevant, as well, because the shutdown of the federal government has caused a cascading series of closures at national parks and monuments, but New York State is paying to keep the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island open.

Rabbi Arthur Schneier of Park East Synagogue, in giving the invocation, evoked memory of arriving in the United States from Austria in 1947 as a refugee of the Holocaust. Speaking about the four pillars of freedom – to worship, speech, freedom from want and fear, he called on leaders to fight “to restore freedom from fear for all Americans.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

One after another of the state leaders sworn into office – Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Attorney General Latisha James – referred to immigrants and their own origins, coming from humble circumstances.

Governor Cuomo reemphasized the point: “we believe the promise that attracted 5000 people a day to come from across the globe to this sacred place, through this portal on Ellis Island, that this is not a faded memory of yesterday, but rather a shining beacon for a better tomorrow. 

“Ellis Island remains the place where Maud McKoy arrived from the poor island of Jamaica. Whose son was educated in New York public schools, and rose to become the United States Secretary of State Colin Powell.

“It is the place where Rose and Joseph Amster, Jewish immigrants from Austria arrived, whose Brooklyn-born granddaughter would become Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsberg.

“This is the place, and this is the promise that made America, America. And no one can ever forget that. It doesn’t matter how high one is raised, or what office one’s occupying. Never forget where you came from, and never forget or deny this place. Because this is the place where Richard Cawley arrived fleeing starvation in Ireland, and whose grandson is now Vice President Mike Pence.”

“This is the harbor where Frederick Trump [Drumpf] arrived from Germany, and whose grandson would become President of the United States. Don’t you tell me Ellis Island isn’t real, and true, and the promise it made America lives today, because it does,” he said in the only part of his address in which he referred to Trump by name.

Referring to his father, Mario Cuomo, who passed away on January 1 four years ago, he said, “he would implore us all each and every one to stand against the tide to fight back and that New York should lead by example by the power of our example and lift up New York to show the nation the way forward, show them the better way. And he would be right.”

Here are more highlights from the event:

Letitia James, the first woman and first black to hold the office of Attorney General in New York State, is sworn in my Reverend Anthony L. Trufant, Senior Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church.  “We stand today on hallowed ground… where refugees came looking for a brighter future under the torch of liberty,” and pledged to fight for justice for all against the powerful. “I believe the law is the greatest equalizer, the force against government inertia and entrenched interests.”  © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who has spent 32 years in state public service, is administered the oath of office by Jenny Rivera, Associate Judge of the NYS Court of Appeals. DiNapoli pledged to continue his campaign for transparency and accountability, and to fulfill his responsibility to the 1.1 million New Yorkers vested in the state’s pension system © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Kathleen C. Hochul is administered the oath of office of Lieutenant Governor by Paul Feinman, Associate Judge of the NYS Court of Appeals © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul pointed to the “unprecedented social and economic progress of the last four years. We will build on that foundation” and reaffirmed her belief in the “power of public service to make sure tomorrows are better than yesterdays.” She reflected on her grandmother who came through Ellis Island to the United States 90 years ago as an impoverished woman from Ireland who became a domestic servant. “She achieved the ideal for her children, who built companies, became educators, served in the military and whose granddaughter became a member of Congress and Lt. Governor. She pledged to draw upon her grandmother’s strength to fight for women’s pay equity, child care, combat sexual assault. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
More than a dozen green energy activists arrive to send message to Cuomo and cabinet as they board the ferry to Ellis Island for Cuomo’s inauguration; two Trump 2020 supporters also showed up © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

NY’s Lt. Gov Kathy Hochul Paying Homage to Massacred Jews, Tells Synagogue: Live a more Publicly Jewish Way, Don’t Be a Victim; Push Hate Back Under a Rock

New York State Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul tells communal shiva gathering for Pittsburgh synagogue victims at Beit Shalom Torah, “Live a more publicly Jewish way, not be a victim. Push [hate] back under a rock.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

The reaction to the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the deadliest against the Jewish community in American history, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum told the Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in Manhattan, to be more Jewish, more visibility, not be (terrorized) into bunkers or invisibility.

Leading a communal shiva service, she said, “We will study, build community and not lose our focus as to what it is to be Jewish.”

New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, addressing a communal Shiva gathering for victims of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh said, “The word is resilience, a refusal to succumb to victimhood. That’s how we win out. Willingness to gather as a community …

“The shock, outrage, disbelief, overwhelming sadness and grief is overwhelming,” she said.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul addresses Beit Shalom Torah congregation at communal shiva gathering for victims of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue shooting © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“How it happened? We don’t have political courage to ban weapons that allow such carnage.

“As to why? We know there is hatred, evil, but in t last two years, it has evolved… Evil lurking under surface, the serpents feeling they can rise up out from under rocks because leadership is willing to do the same. .. What was submerged is unleashed.

“What gives hope is the knowledge that no child is born anti-Semitic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic. [We must] capture hearts and minds of next generation before they learn hate.”

She advised, “Live a more publicly Jewish way, not be a victim, but embrace your heritage and embrace the ones not yet [tainted] by hate. Push [hate] back under a rock.

“On behalf of Governor Cuomo and 20 million New Yorkers, I express condolences to all of us because we are all heartbroken today.”

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum and Cantor Steve Zeidenberg of Beit Shalom Torah hold communal shiva gathering for victims of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue shooting © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Rabbi Kleinbaum noted that the first response after the news of the massacre in Pittsburgh came via text and email from Muslim and Christian leaders in the city.

She said that since the inauguration, she and members of the synagogue have held a vigil at the nearby mosque every Friday, to stand up for Muslims who have been vilified by Trump.

“We say to ourselves what would it have been like in Berlin, in Vienna, if non-Jewish Germans and Austrians stood with their Jewish neighbors.

And now, the Iman has said his members would come to the synagogue this Friday before Shabbat services.

“We are in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters,” he wrote. “Throughout the constant attacks and dehumanization from this administration, [Beit Simcha Torah] has been a source of faith and love. … Our duty is to stand with our Jewish brother and sisters. We stand with them, put our bodies on the line for their safety. … [We must] stamp out White Supremacy and anti-Semitism….Any attack on your community is an attack on ours.”

Rabbi Kleinman said, “We can replace hate in the world, the violence, with love.”

Sing “God Bless America” as a prayer, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum says at Beit Shalom Torah hold communal shiva gathering for victims of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue shooting © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

She noted that the attack on Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh was not only an act of anti-Semitism, but because the synagogue supported refugees to the US.

“Abraham was told to leave his home, go to a place he did not know and build and live there.

HIAS – Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society – provided finances to help Jews, and today, HIAS helps non-Jews become part of the American tapestry, “because we are Jews, we welcome the stranger, the immigrant,” she said.

“God forbid this act of violence deters us from that, puts us into bunkers. That’s what the terrorists, anti-Semities want…. We must respond to anti-Semitism with deepened strength of Jewish identity. We must not let fear, despair control us.

At the end of the service, members of the synagogue’s board read the names and something personal about each of the 11 victims at Tree of Life Synagogue, murdered for no other reason than being Jewish. Most notably, was the personal remembrance of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66 years old, who was one of the first to treat people with HIV. The gentleman had grown up in Pittsburgh and was treated by Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, until he left Pittsburgh in 2004. “He was the one to go to. He was known in the community for keeping us alive the longest. He held us without gloves. You will be remembered by me always. You are one of my heroes.”

It is also notable that the first to treat the assassin at the hospital were Jewish, including a doctor who was a congregant at Tree of Life.

“I refuse to give up on the dream of what this world could be,” Rabbi Kleinbaum said, “[to be a victim of] the violence, hatred unleashed by this administration. I refuse to give up on the power of human beings. We who are Jews, have a deep and proud tradition. There are those who would want us to turn inward. Don’t believe that.

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum and Cantor Steve Zeidenberg of Beit Shalom Torah hold communal shiva gathering for victims of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue shooting © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Before the immigration laws, a young boy whose mother couldn’t speak English, came with no money, worked very hard cleaning other people’s homes and would tell him, ‘God bless America,’ not because it was perfect but it was better than the place she fled. The son grew up in New York City, became one of the greatest songwriters. Irving Berlin wrote “God Bless America,” not as a militaristic, triumphant chant. He wrote it as a prayer. He wrote it understanding her dream, coming to this country without skills, language or money, for her son to grow up away from a land that hated Jews. God Bless America. We won’t give up. And remember to vote. Sing it, as a prayer.”

And the congregation sang.

Founded in 1973, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST) is a progressive synagogue that attracts and welcomes gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, ‎queer and straight, individuals and families who share common values. Hochul had participated in the opening of the building in 2016.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

New York State Democrats Proudly Tout Progressive Accomplishments, Agenda in Choosing Cuomo, Hochul for 2018

Hillary Clinton elucidates what Democrats stand for and why Andrew Cuomo, a progressive who gets things done, should be reelected for third term as New York State Governor © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & PhotoFeatures

“Pride and Purpose” is the slogan for Hofstra University. It could also be the slogan for the “new” Democratic party, exuded by New York State Democrats at their convention, held at the university’s stadium in Nassau County last week. There were not taking a backseat to Cynthia Nixon and the Working Families Party progressive values. Instead, Hillary Clinton, Tom Perez, Joe Biden, and Andrew Cuomo, himself schooled them on the art of pragmatic progressivism:  getting progressive policies enacted.

Not the ideals, the hyperbole, the theory, not that hot air balloon that raised Bernie Sanders and still fills the Bernie Bro’s and those who attach to him, like Cynthia Nixon who has no clue at all how to achieve or change any of the wrongs. Hillary Clinton, in one of her debates with Bernie Sanders, noted that “politics is the art of the possible.”

The theme for the first day was “Moving Forward,” – a slap at Republicans cynical actions to move the clock back to a time when women, minorities, the disabled and vulnerable were subjugated without consequence. The theme for the second day, when Andrew Cuomo gave his acceptance speech, was “Fighting Back.”

Taking the podium in the same venue as the first 2016 presidential debate where she showed the presidential pretender, Donald Trump,  to be the fool he is, Clinton answered the question constantly posed to Democrats (but not Republicans): What do Democrats stand for? Well, it may not fit on a hat, but Clinton provided the answer:

“Look around this room: people who stand for an economy that works for everybody, universal health care, and even better, people who have plans to get us there. You’ll see defenders of civil rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, rights of people with disabilities. I don’t believe these are minor issues –they matter to millions and millions of New Yorkers, Americans.

“So much of the progress we see in the United States is because we Democrats pushed open doors to opportunity for people who have been shut out. And we, my friends, are not going back.”

At a time when income inequality is the greatest since 1915, she said,  “I think it’s a bold idea that everyone in this country should have a decent standard of living and a good job to pay for it…That everyone deserves the best possible start in life..Quality health care throughout and a safe, secure retirement. Even bolder is to have plans to make those realities, the way Democrats do.

“Let’s remind ourselves: Democrats are the party that rescued country from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression; passed, then saved, the Affordable Care Act; helped keep Planned Parenthood’s doors open. We’re the party that will save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security from persistent Republican attacks. We are the party that will keep fighting every day to achieve universal health care and universal job opportunities. So don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Hillary Clinton at 2018 New York State Democratic Convention: ““If you want an economy that works for you and your family, you have to vote for Democrats.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“If you want an economy that works for you and your family, you have to vote for Democrats…..quality health care….protect and expand the rights of all Americans, not just the top 1%, you have to vote for Democrats.

“If you believe in woman’s right to make her own health care decisions …in well funded public schools, colleges, and the resources so that teachers can succeed.. If you believe in actual commonsense gun safety laws to help save lives…understand that we are facing a real crisis with Climate Change…and believe we can stand up for our values and keep our country safe, you have to vote for Democrats.

“If you believe in comprehensive immigration reform and protecting Dreamers …… getting money out of politics and getting all voters to the polls..if you believe that standing up for evidence and reason and respecting the rule of Law is critical for our democracy, you have to vote for Democrats.”

“Now more than ever we need leaders who will stand up for progressive values and up against to those who will turn neighbor against neighbor and sow seeds of  division. Most of all, we need leaders who believe in producing results and getting things done – leaders like Andrew Cuomo and Kathy Hochul.”

“Now more than ever we need leaders who will stand up for progressive values and up against to those who will turn neighbor against neighbor and sow seeds of  division. Most of all, we need leaders who believe in producing results and getting things done – leaders like Andrew Cuomo and Kathy Hochul.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Indeed, Cuomo has chalked up quite a record in his 7 years that align perfectly with the progressive agenda:

Erased $10 billion deficit, added 1 million private-sector jobs to a record number of 8.2 million; raised the minimum wage to $15, passed the strongest paid family leave policy in America; stood up to protect a woman’s right to choose, and defended access to the state’s version of Obamacare; implemented marriage equality and stood up against racism and sexual abuse.

Implemented commonsense gun safety laws, promoted criminal justice reform and created a mechanism to investigate deaths by police. Put affordable college education in reach of every New Yorker, making the state the first in nation to provide tuition-free college for low and mid-income students.

He’s unleashed the most massive overhaul of infrastructure since Franklin D. Roosevelt was governor, to the tune of $100 billion that has seen new bridges, mass transportation improvements all across the state (built with union labor), invested in innovation and business incubators. Much of this is also to realize the target of 50% of the state’s energy needs coming from renewable by 2030, and he has backed it up by shutting down coal-fired plants, investing in offshore windpower.

He has stood up for Dreamers and for immigrants, creating a legal fund so that those who Trump and Sessions would race to deport have the benefit of due process enshrined in the Constitution and a stable of American values.

And Hochul, probably the hardest working Lt. Governor in the nation, has done an outstanding job to promote gender equity.

Former Vice President Joe Biden at the 2018 New York State Democratic Convention: “This is not your father’s Republican Party,” former Vice President Joe Biden told the audience. “They are not who we are. They are not who America is. What they are doing is sending a vision of America around the world that is distorted. That is damaging. That is hurting us… this phony populism, this fake nationalism…. It’s time to say ‘no more.'” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“This is not your father’s Republican Party,” former Vice President Joe Biden told the audience. “They are not who we are. They are not who America is. What they are doing is sending a vision of America around the world that is distorted. That is damaging. That is hurting us… this phony populism, this fake nationalism…. It’s time to say ‘no more.'”

We have seen how the Republicans govern: pulling back on rights for  workers, women, voting rights, overturning environmental, consumer and financial protections (how is that helping working people?). Doing nothing to expand access to affordable health care, rather, doing their best to destroy Obamacare and watch as health care premiums rise.. Doing nothing to make college affordable, address student debt; nothing to address the opioid crisis or address spiraling rise in drug prices that put life-saving drugs out of reach. And that $1.5 trillion infrastructure fantasy? As Biden said, Trump gave it away to the 1% in the GOP tax scheme.

“This election isn’t just about winning, though win we must,” declared Jay Jacobs, chair of Nassau Democrats. “It’s about the soul of America – what nation we are, who we will about moving forward.

Here’s the tidy slogan that Democrats should embrace and it even fits on a hat: Justice. Fairness. Opportunity.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

New Yorkers Need to Demand State Legislators Support Cuomo’s Women’s Agenda

New York State Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul addresses the Council on Women and Girls Regional Forum at Long Island University: “The torch has now been passed to us. Our job is not just to pass it along, but to make sure it glows even brighter, so we look back 100 years from now, and can say, yes, we made a difference in lives in a profound way © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

New York State, the birthplace of women’s rights, is pushing for a second round of legislation to address persistent and institutional gender inequity. The state legislature needs to hear from advocates before the April 1 budget deadline.

It is laudable that these initiatives – in categories of Health, Safety, Workplace, Girls, and Family being forcefully advanced by Governor Cuomo – came after months of information gathering, listening tours, and the formation of regional Women’s Councils, coordinated by the governor’s Director of Women’s Affairs, Kelli Owens. Just having such a position is notable.

As Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, a singular champion of women’s rights in New York State, said in her remarks that opened the Council on Women and Girls Regional Forum at Long Island University on March 1,The genesis for the Council of Women and Girls came because of Washington – on the day the president said ‘We don’t need to be concerned’ and abolished the [Obama-era] Commission on Women and Girls, our governor, as in so many cases [climate action, environmental protection, gun control], stepped up to fill void created by Washington.”

Trump has moved aggressively to roll back gains women have made: restoring being a woman as a “pre-condition” for medical insurance, overturning the mandate that insurance companies provide contraception without co-pays, attacking Title X funding for health clinics including Planned Parenthood, advocating for legislation to curtail access to abortion.

Unless Congress takes action, the Violence Against Women Act will run out of funding in September. This landmark piece of legislation is a life-saver. Since its original passage, domestic violence cases are down by more than 65% nationally. If Congress’ “action” on reauthorizing CHIP is an indication, the Republican-controlled Congress will likely let this lapse as well, even as they cut billions of dollars for programs that directly affect women and families.

New York State – which Cuomo never fails to point out has been a progressive leader for the nation, a status he has worked to reclaim – has made some important gains during his administration, including aggressively pushing for economic development opportunities for Minority & Women-owned Enterprises, for wider access to pre-K programs, gun control, access to health care and guarantee for women’s reproductive rights.

In this second round of legislation and policies – notably several of which need to be adopted by the State Legislature before the April 1 deadline for adopting the budget – he is going after sexual harassment, pay equity, domestic violence, expanding access to child care, educational opportunities, job training and business investment.

New York has been celebrating the centennial of Women’s Suffrage since 1917, the year the state on its own gave women the right to vote, three years before the nation adopted the 19th Amendment.

But despite New York’s progressive policies, New York women still earn less than men for the same work: white women 89c, African American 66c, Hispanic women 54 c in New York, “and we’re the good state, where people are better off. Does that not tell you we have a long way to go?” Hochul said.

“We are convening forums around the state, to drill down why this is happening – part is institutional, cultural, part is that women don’t have childcare but want to continue on a career track, have talent, brilliance, but are primarily responsible for making sure kids are okay and there is not enough child care.” Also parental leave, not just for a newborn or adoption, but when a child or parent gets sick.

“You should be proud your state recognizes this challenge – we now have the most generous paid family leave policy – to relieve the stress of possibly losing a job when you are home with a new baby.”

“It’s about economic empowerment: getting more girls into STEM education and careers. It’s about safety and security – domestic violence” – something that has been crystallized in the Trump White House, notably with the tolerance of a credibly accused wife-beater as Trump’s secretary.

Budget initiatives (see details at https://www.ny.gov/2018-womens-opportunity-agenda-new-york/womens-opportunity-agenda-proposals) include:

Health initiatives: passing Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act codifying access to contraception; codifying Roe v. Wade into state law and constitution to insure health care professionals can provide these crucial services without fear of criminal penalty; mandating insurance coverage and insuring access to IVF and fertility services; combat maternal depression and establish a maternal mortality review board (NY ranks 30th in maternal mortality); add experts in women’s health and health disparities to the State Board of Medicine.

Safety: pass the Equal Rights Amendment to add sex as a protected class; remove firearms from domestic abusers; combat sextortion and revenge porn; extend storage timeline for forensic rape kits at hospitals (from 30 days to at least five years, or when the victim turns 19); advance legislation to amend the Human Rights Law to protect all public school students from discrimination.

Workplace: combat sexual harassment in the workplace; call on NYS Common Retirement Fund to invest in companies with women and minority leadership; reauthorize the State’s Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise Program; close the gender wage gap; support women returning to or advancing in the workforce with job training and placement services; invest $20 million in Women-Owned Businesses;  encourage more use of flexible work schedules.

Girls: expand access to computer science and engineering (STEM); launch “If You Can See It You Can Be It,” a day for girls to see what is possible; create K-12 learning module on healthy relationships; legislation requiring school districts to provide free menstrual products, in restrooms, for girls in grades 6 through 12.

Family: invest $25 million to expand pre-K and after-school programs; increase state funding by $7 million  to provide working families with affordable child care; continue enhanced Child Care Tax Credit for working families; establish a new Child Care Availability Task Force.

“All these areas converge,” Colleen Merlo, Executive Director, Long Island Against Domestic Violence, said. “Gender equality cannot be achieved unless we address all these buckets….We see that women lose time at work because of domestic violence, so if we don’t create safety at home, they are losing time at work, so are not advancing, not getting equal pay or promotion – all are interconnected with safety.”

It’s also about making it easier to vote, adding early voting (which NYS doesn’t yet have), so women who work and care for children aren’t shut out of casting a ballot – part of Cuomo’s “Democracy Agenda.”

“The torch has now been passed to us,” Hochul stated. “Our job is not just to pass it along, but to make sure it glows even brighter, so we look back 100 years from now, and can say, yes, we made a difference in lives in a profound way, that we spoke up for people without voices.”

What to do? First: contact state representatives to urge them to vote on the budget and legislation bolstering the Women’s Agenda. Planned Parenthood of Nassau County, among others, is mounting a lobbying day in Albany on March 13, to join Cecile Richards, President of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and more than 1,000 activists from across New York State, to advocate for pro-reproductive health legislation.

Call and write representatives, yes. March, yes, Protest, yes. Spread the word with social media, yes. Vote, absolutely.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin