Tag Archives: NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo

NYS Takes Dramatic Steps to Expand Absentee and Early Voting; Launches Public Awareness Campaign

Voting will have a very different look in 2020. New York State is taking dramatic steps to expand absentee and early voting to address concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. “To say this election is the most critical in recent history is understating its importance. We want to make sure every vote in New York is counted and every voice is heard,” Governor Cuomo said. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Voters Can Learn More About Absentee Voting And Early Voting In New York By Visiting ny.gov/earlyvote

New York State had  long been criticized for having some of the most restrictive rules for voting, resulting in some of the lowest turnout rates in the country. But that has changed with a series of reforms aimed at making it easier to vote, including making absentee voting (vote-by-mail) an option available to all, new early voting, to meet the coronavirus crisis so that casting a vote does not have to be a life-and-death choice between exercising a citizen’s most cherished right, and their health.

In addition, Cuomo issued executive orders allowing registered voters to drop off their completed absentee ballot at a Board of Elections office, early voting location or Election Day voting location without requiring them to wait in line with in-person voters. Boards of elections are required to develop and submit a plan to the State Board of Elections by September 21 and make it publicly available.

Meanwhile, the state is launching a public awareness campaign to ensure New Yorkers know all the ways they can vote in November’s election, including voting early, voting absentee, or voting in person on Election Day. 

“Because of COVID, this year New Yorkers have several options when it comes to casting their ballot. You can vote early, vote absentee, or vote in person on Election Day, and I am issuing an executive order to ensure boards of elections have plans in place to safely receive the anticipated additional volume of absentee ballots through in person return,” Governor Cuomo said.”To say this election is the most critical in recent history is understating its importance. We want to make sure every vote in New York is counted and every voice is heard.”

Absentee ballots can be dropped to county boards of elections offices as soon as voters receive their ballot; any early voting location between October 24th and November 1st; and at polling locations on Election Day. By dropping off an absentee ballot at a county board of elections office, early voting site or polling location, New Yorkers can avoid Post Office delays and the need for a stamp.

Most New Yorkers can now request an absentee ballot for the first time under a new law the Governor signed expanding eligibility to all voters who have concerns regarding COVID-19. They should check the “temporary illness” box on their absentee ballot application. To learn more about absentee voting and early voting in New York, visit ny.gov/earlyvote.

The state has launched an absentee ballot portal where voters can directly request an absentee ballot for the upcoming November 3rd election.

Given an expected unprecedented increase in the use of absentee ballots and concerns about the reliability of the United States Postal Service, today’s executive order ensures an expedited, dedicated line for returning absentee ballots in-person, or a contactless drop box in every county.

The state made several sweeping election reform steps in advance of the November 3rd election. 

On August 20, Governor Cuomo signed into law a three-part election reform package to make it easier for New Yorkers to vote and be counted in November, including: allowing absentee ballot applications to be submitted to a board of elections immediately; expanding the necessary protections to allow a voter to get an absentee ballot due to risk or fear of illness including COVID-19 and; ensuring all absentee ballots postmarked on or before Election Day or received by a board of elections without a postmark on the day after the election will be counted. Ballots with a postmark demonstrating that they were mailed on or before Election Day will be counted if received by November 10. 

On August 24, Governor Cuomo issued an Executive Order to further bolster and support New Yorker’s right to vote by requiring county boards of elections to take the following actions:

  1. Send a mailing outlining all deadlines for voters by Tuesday, September 8.
  2. Send staffing plans and needs to the New York State Board of Elections by September 20 so BOE can assist in ensuring adequate coverage.
  3. Adopt a uniform clarified envelope for absentee ballots and require counties to use it.
  4. Count votes faster: require all objections to be made by the county board in real time, make sure that boards are ready to count votes and reconcile affidavit and absentee ballots by 48 hours after elections. 
  5. Provide an option for New Yorkers to vote absentee in village, town and special district elections.

“All board of elections make sure they have everything in place, the staff in place, to count the ballots as soon as possible,” Cuomo said. “And the board of elections have to report staffing plans and any needs for additional staff. If they don’t have the staff. Tell us tell us before. So you can get the staff because you have to be able to count the ballots. You have to be able to tabulate the vote. We want it done and we want it done right, but we want it done timely. We don’t want to hear after-the-fact excuses for why you couldn’t do it. Tell us how you’re going to do it before-the-fact, and your staffing plan from the board of elections that will actually do that.

“This election is going to be one of the most critical in modern history. It will be controversial. You already hear the statements questioning the vote, and the accuracy of the vote, and mail-in ballots. We want to make sure that every vote is counted; every voice is heard and that it’s fair and right and accurate.”

“The federal administration has ordered an unprecedented attack on the U.S. Postal Service and with COVID-19 threatening our ability to have safe, in-person voting, these measures are critical to ensuring a successful and fair election at one of the most important moments in our nation’s history,” Governor Cuomo said. “These actions will further break down barriers to democracy and will make it easier for all New Yorkers to exercise their right to vote this November.” 

New Laws Will Make It Easier for New Yorkers to Vote and Be Counted in November

S.8015-D/A.10833 Authorizes Voters to Request an Absentee Ballot Due to Risk of Illness, Including COVID

S.8783A/A.10807 Authorizes Voters to Request Absentee Ballots Starting Today

S.8799A/A.10808-A Allows Ballots to Be Postmarked On the Day of the Election, November 3

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, “Voting access is one of the core foundations of our democracy. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we must ensure that no New Yorkers feel pressured to put their health and well-being at risk to exercise their Constitutional right to vote. I thank the bill sponsors for advancing this legislation, and my Senate Democratic Majority colleagues for their ongoing

commitment to empower New York voters and Governor Cuomo for signing these bills.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, “The Assembly Majority knows that democracy is best served when it is easier, not harder for Americans to vote. But the administration in Washington is once again proving that they do not value these critical democratic institutions, going as far as attacking the U.S. Postal Service to limit access to voting by mail. Here in New York, we will not stand for that. Earlier this year, we passed legislation to expand voters access to mail in voting, and we will continue to fight to make it easier and safer for New Yorkers to exercise their constitutional right to vote, and protect the integrity of our elections.”

Relating to Absentee Ballot Requests Due to Risk of Illness (S.8015-D/A.10833)

This legislation gives voters the right to request an absentee ballot due to risk of illness to themselves or others.

Senator Alessandra Biaggi said, “COVID has upended every aspect of our lives — but we cannot allow it to undermine our democracy and New Yorkers’ sacred right to vote. I introduced S8015D to ensure that no New Yorker will have to choose between their health and fulfilling their civic responsibility. Unfortunately, during the June election too many New Yorkers had to make that very choice because they did not receive their ballots on time. I want to thank Governor Cuomo for signing my bill to provide every New Yorker with the assurance that they can vote via absentee ballot come November and to give the Board of Elections the time they need to prepare. I also want to extend my gratitude to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and my colleagues in the Legislature for their partnership and commitment to protecting our democracy.”

Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz said, “Today is a great day for our democracy in New York State. As we continue to work on ways to increase voter efficacy in the absentee ballot process, I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law so that New Yorkers do not have to choose between risking public health and fulfilling our civic duty to vote. I am proud that New York State can stand in contrast to our White House administration by taking steps to make it easier and safer to vote, instead of casting political dispersions that erode our core democratic institutions.”

Relating to Absentee Ballot Requests (S.8783A/A.10807)

This legislation authorizes voters to request absentee ballots immediately, 30 days before Election Day, adding almost 7 weeks to the amount of time a voter has to vote by absentee ballot. This legislation eliminates an outdated statutory provision that prevents voters from requesting absentee ballots until 30 days before Election Day. The legislation gives voters reassurance that they will receive and can cast their vote in a timely manner.

Senator Zellnor Myrie said, “With an increasing number of voters planning to vote by absentee ballot this year, it is important to give local boards of election sufficient time to process applications and send out ballots, and maximize the time voters have to complete and return them. This legislation is part of our continued effort to expand access to voting, during the pandemic and beyond. Voters should have full confidence that, whether they use a mailbox or a ballot box, they can exercise their rights safely, securely and without obstacles.”

Assemblymember Al Taylor said, “The COVID-19 health crisis has transformed life as we know it, including how we vote. This year we saw a tenfold increase in absentee ballot requests, with more people than ever choosing to vote by mail to protect the health of their families and community. With this new reality, we must ensure voters can exercise their rights in future elections both safely and efficiently, and that includes receiving absentee ballots in a timely fashion. I am honored to continue the fight to expand and protect voting rights in New York alongside my colleagues as we build upon the progress that’s already been made while helping our neighbors stay safe.  Thank you Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law.”

Relating to Ballots Postmarked on Day of Election (S.8799A/A.10808-A)

This legislation allows ballots to be postmarked on the day of the election, November 3. The legislation also amends election law to allow the Board of Elections to count all absentee ballots that have a time stamp showing it was delivered to the Board of Elections the day after the election but does not have a dated postmark. The Board of Elections shall deem those ballots mailed in a timely fashion.

Senator Michael Gianaris said, “It’s critical we learn the lessons of the primary election and ensure every valid vote counts in November. The bill being signed today will help insulate voters from problems caused by difficulties with the US Postal Service. I’m grateful the Governor is enacting it.”

Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte said, “The legislation the governor is signing today will ensure that New Yorkers’ right to participate in the electoral process is protected. We saw unprecedented absentee voter turnout during the primary, but because of financial challenges at the United States Postal Service, many ballots did not receive timely postmarks. We must rise to the occasion and make sure that voters across the state can safely and effectively cast their votes. This legislation will help to address problems with the Post Office, by ensuring that absentee ballots that do not receive a postmark are considered timely if they are received by the Board of Elections the day after an election. This protects the integrity of votes and enfranchises the voter. I thank Gov. Cuomo for signing this bill and my colleagues in the Legislature for supporting New Yorkers by ensuring that their constitutional right to vote is protected.”

NYS Governor Cuomo: ‘Trump is actively trying to kill New York City’

NY S Governor Andrew Cuomo: We lose more people per day to COVID than any nation on the globe. You know who did that? Donald Trump’s incompetence. And now they won’t provide federal funding to help repair the damage from the ambush they created…The federal government must provide a response; if they don’t provide a response the national economy will suffer for years…They don’t want to provide a response, why? Because they’re playing politics. They don’t want to help Democratic states. They don’t want to help Democratic cities. This is a war on cities: New York City, Portland, Chicago. These are the enemies from the president’s point of view.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Governor Andrew Cuomo in his daily briefing in which noted that New York State’s COVID-19 infection rate has been below 1 percent for 32 straight days., laid out a searing attack on Donald Trump, charging that Trump is waging war on Democratic-lead cities.

“Trump is actively trying to kill New York City,” Cuomo declared. “It is personal. I think it’s psychological. He is trying to kill New York City…

“We lose more people per day to COVID than any nation on the globe. You know who did that? Donald Trump’s incompetence. And now they won’t provide federal funding to help repair the damage from the ambush they created…

“The federal government must provide a response; if they don’t provide a response the national economy will suffer for years. Every economist says that They don’t want to provide a response, why? Because they’re playing politics. They don’t want to help Democratic states. They don’t want to help Democratic cities.”

Cuomo put it into the context of Trump administration’s failure to take measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus which came into New York and the Northeast from Europe, not China, causing untold emotional and economic harm, and now doing everything possible to prevent the city and state from recovering economically.

Here are his highlighted remarks –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The good news is this: reopening is proceeding and our strategy is working. New Yorkers are doing a better job than any state in the United States of America— period— and I’m proud to be a New Yorker. The bad news is we have after-effects of COVID, social after-effects. We have economic issues. we have quality-of-life issues. We have increasing crime issues. We have habitability issues.  

I can’t tell you how many phone calls I get from people, especially in New York City, who are literally worried about the degradation of New York City— and much of it stems from the economic problems. And Washington is doing absolutely nothing. They’re going back and forth with gridlock. This was the last piece of legislation that they were supposed to pass to handle the aftermath of COVID and they haven’t done it. The Republican Senate doesn’t want to fund state and local governments and that’s the sticking point. Not to fund state and local governments, but to provide all the money that they did to businesses— but you’re not going to provide funding to state local governments, who basically support police, fire, hospitals and schools is just totally ludicrous to me. And it starts with the President.

There was a headline in the Daily News once: “Ford to City: Drop Dead,” and the city was outraged Ford wouldn’t provide financial resources. What Ford did pales in comparison to what Trump is doing; not only did he tell New York City to “drop dead,”

Trump is actively trying to kill New York City. It is personal. I think it’s psychological. He is trying to kill New York City.

He passed SALT, which was targeted just at New York City tax reform; it cost us $14 billion.

He’s refused to fund the extension of the Second Avenue Subway from 96th to 125th Street. Every prior administration has funded the Second Avenue Subway. It is always been a federal-state partnership. Only this President, a former New Yorker, refuses to fund the Second Avenue Subway— even after we opened it up to 96th Street and did an amazing turn-around on the construction project that everybody celebrated.

He won’t approve the AirTrain to LaGuardia. And you want to talk about really ironic, repugnant logic? You know why he won’t approve the AirTrain to LaGuardia? He says he has to do an Environmental Review statement. The same President who has lamented about the delay of Environmental Reviews and how they take so long, and how they stop development and how bad the SEQRA is and how the environmentalists are all full of baloney when it comes to ANWAR. Now he says, “I can’t approve the AirTrain from LaGuardia that’s been talked about for decades because I have to do an Environmental Review. Now Trump, as the environmental bureaucrat. How incredible is that? 

He won’t approve congestion pricing for the MTA. What does he have to do with congestion pricing? Nothing! It is just gratuitous. It is just gratuitous. There is no federal involvement with congestion pricing. Their approval is purely technical and it’s been over a year— we passed it in New York State. He won’t approve it.

He won’t rebuild the tunnels between New York and New Jersey that are dangerous. They’re Amtrak tunnels. Do you know who owns Amtrak? Who owns Amtrak? The federal government owns Amtrak. They’re his tunnels. They’re decaying. I went to the tunnel; I took a video of water seeping into the tunnel. I took a video of bricks crumbling. I sent them the video. He watched the video. Still, no money to fund the Amtrak tunnels.

This weekend, they stopped FEMA funding from cleaning schools and trains. “We want students to go back; we want schools to reopen.” But you don’t want to clean the schools? Students should go back to a dirty school? Is that what you want your child to do? Gratuitous and arbitrary, and now no federal funds for New York City and New York State post-COVID.  

Donald Trump caused the COVID outbreak in New York. That is a fact. It’s a fact that he admitted and the CDC admitted and Fauci admitted. “The China Virus, the China Virus, the China Virus.” It was not the China Virus; it was the European Virus that came to New York. They missed it. They missed it. The China Virus went to Europe. It got on a plane and went to Europe. They never even thought of the possibility and then 3 million Europeans got on a plane and came to New York and they brought the virus. January: they brought the virus. February: they brought the virus. March: they brought the virus. And in mid-March, the federal government does a travel ban from Europe. Mid-March. Too little too late, Mr. President. He caused the COVID outbreak in New York. Donald Trump and his incompetent CDC and his incompetent NIH and his incompetent Department of Homeland Security.  

Department of Homeland Security- “We’re going to protect the people of this nation “We’re not going let the immigrants come across the southern border; we’re going to create a wall” Why didn’t you stop the virus? The virus killed many more Americans than anything you were worried about on the southern border. This nation loses more people per day to COVID than any nation on the globe. Do you hear that point?

We lose more people per day to COVID than any nation on the globe. You know who did that? Donald Trump’s incompetence. And now they won’t provide federal funding to help repair the damage from the ambush they created. That’s where we are.

The federal government must provide a response; if they don’t provide a response the national economy will suffer for years. Every economist says that They don’t want to provide a response, why? Because they’re playing politics. They don’t want to help Democratic states. They don’t want to help Democratic cities.

This is a war on cities: New York City, Portland, Chicago. Right? These are the enemies from the president’s point of view. Look at his tweets. “These are the locations and the outposts of the enemies, so don’t provide them any funding even though we caused the COVID virus. It is an unsustainable position for the federal government.

Either this president will figure it out or the next president will figure it out. If Congress doesn’t figure it out, there will be mayhem in this country and there will be a different Congress in January. That is my political opinion. In the interim we have to be smart. We’ve gone through tough times before, New York, we had the fiscal crisis of the 70s; post 9/11 – I experienced it was a whole disruptive period – we went through the Great Recession, but we have to be smart we have to be smart we have to be financially smart and we’re going to have to come together and figure this out in the interim before we have a federal government that is sane and functional.  

The good news is, this is going to be a challenge, yes, but nothing like the challenge we just went through. COVID was the challenge of our lifetime. COVID was the challenge of our lifetime. I hope and pray. But compared to what we went through with COVID, dealing with the fiscal crisis is a mere bump and we’ll get through it, and we’ll get through it together because we’re New York Tough, Smart, United, Disciplined and most of all: Loving.

The number of new cases, percentage of tests that were positive and many other helpful data points are always available at forward.ny.gov.

As schools reopen and districts, local health departments, and labs begin reporting data to the NYS Dept. of Health, the COVID-19 Report Card will be live at: https://schoolcovidreportcard.health.ny.gov/

Cuomo Launches $100 Million New York Forward Loan Fund for Small Businesses; Sees Phase 1 Reopening in LI, Mid-Hudson; Expands Testing to Pharmacies

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo  is so keen on emphasizing the importance of wearing a mask to keep down the rates of infection, hospitalization and deaths from COVID-19, the state is mounting a contest for a public service announcement. Five finalists have been selected. To vote (by May 25) go to coronavirus.health.ny.gov/wear-mask © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the launch of the $100 million New York Forward Loan Fund to provide flexible and affordable loans to help small businesses, focusing on minority and women owned small businesses, that did not receive federal COVID-19 assistance. The state will take a smart, targeted approach for distributing these loans, focusing on businesses with 20 or fewer employees and less than $3 million in gross revenues. Businesses interested in receiving a loan should visit esd.ny.gov/nyforwardloans.

Governor Cuomo also announced the Long Island and Mid-Hudson Valley Regions will be permitted to begin construction staging in anticipation of phase one of reopening. If the number of deaths continues to decrease and the tracing is online, both regions could reopen next week.

The Governor also announced the launch of a new pilot program with 52 independent pharmacies to conduct 7,000 tests per week. New York State now has more than 750 testing sites across the state. The Governor also encouraged eligible New Yorkers to visit coronavirus.health.ny.gov to find a nearby testing site and get tested.

The Governor also announced that the state is making its contact tracing training curriculum available at no cost to all states through the National Governors Association to speed the process of creating contact tracing programs. The state partnered with Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University to develop this comprehensive online curriculum to train potential contact tracers. Contact tracing is currently underway in seven regions of the state – the Capital Region, Central New York, Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley, the North Country, the Southern Tier and Western New York.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stresses the importance of wearing a mask to slow the spread of coronavirus (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

The Governor pointed to the urgency of continuing practices like social distancing, hand-washing and perhaps most critically, wearing a mask in public when six-feet separation cannot be maintained.

“How do you know the mask works?” he said. “First responders have a lower infection rate than the general population. Nurses, doctors in emergency rooms have a lower infection rate than the general population. How can that possibly be? Because they wear the mask and they do the hand sanitizers. You feel out of control, you can’t protect yourself, you can’t protect family? Yes, you can. That’s what the mask does. You want to be in control of yourself? You want to greatly increase your odds? Wear the mask. By the way, not just asking you. The mask is mandatory in public settings. Public transportation, if you are in a taxi or Uber, private carriers, or anytime you are in public within six feet of another person, the mask is mandatory. It is not just a nice thing to do, a responsible thing to do, for citizen duty, it is mandatory that you wear the mask within six feet of another person in public. You don’t have a right to infect another person. You don’t. Look at the constitution, tell me where it says you have the right to infect another person. You don’t.

“So, how do we reopen smart? It’s up to you. It’s up to us. And that’s both the beauty and the conundrum of this situation. It is wholly dependent on social action. Wholly dependent on social action. You tell me what people do, I will tell you the results, period. Government can say whatever it wants. I can sit up here and say whatever I want. I can’t control it. People can control it.”

Cuomo is so keen on mask-wearing, that he enlisted his daughter Mariah Kennedy Cuomo to create the state’s Wear a Mask New York Ad Contest, which was launched on May 5th. Out of 600 submissions, five finalists have been selected. New Yorkers can vote for the winning ad until Monday May 25th at WearAMask.ny.gov, and 92,000 people have voted to date. The winning ad will be announced on Tuesday, May 26th, and that ad will be used as a public service announcement.

On the state’s decision to launch its own small business loan program, Cuomo said, “Small business is a priority. Federal government passed the Small Business Assistance Program. That has run out of money and small businesses are taking a real beating in this situation. They are 90 percent of New York’s businesses and they’re facing the toughest challenges. The economic projections, vi-a-vie small business are actually frightening. More than 100,000 have shut permanently since the pandemic hit. Many small businesses just don’t have the staying power to continue to pay all the fixed costs, the lease, et cetera, when they have no income whatsoever. Minority owned businesses face a far greater risk and have received less in federal relief.”

The state’s own small business relief program will make $100 million available through private banks.

“We’re going to focus on MWBEs that did not receive federal assistance and focus on really small business. The federal definition of small business is what many could consider large business, but we’re going to focus on true small businesses. Twenty or fewer employees, less than $3 million in gross revenues.”

Finally, the Governor confirmed 1,696 additional cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 358,154 confirmed cases. Of the 358,154 total individuals who tested positive for the virus, the geographic breakdown is as follows:

CountyTotal PositiveNew Positive
Albany1,75656
Allegany440
Broome46817
Cattaraugus743
Cayuga731
Chautauqua635
Chemung1351
Chenango1180
Clinton940
Columbia3561
Cortland371
Delaware721
Dutchess3,76722
Erie5,397127
Essex360
Franklin190
Fulton1893
Genesee1891
Greene2150
Hamilton50
Herkimer952
Jefferson721
Lewis191
Livingston1140
Madison2973
Monroe2,60171
Montgomery770
Nassau39,608121
Niagara89717
NYC196,484809
Oneida82811
Onondaga1,82857
Ontario1804
Orange10,14250
Orleans1751
Oswego964
Otsego670
Putnam1,18712
Rensselaer4604
Rockland12,90528
Saratoga4488
Schenectady6457
Schoharie490
Schuyler111
Seneca542
St. Lawrence1950
Steuben2402
Suffolk38,672119
Sullivan1,2876
Tioga1181
Tompkins1472
Ulster1,59511
Warren2465
Washington2242
Wayne1041
Westchester32,76794
Wyoming790
Yates340

Nassau County Looks to Reopen, Invites Residents to Get Outdoors to Beaches, Parks, Trails as NYS Expands Testing, Small Business Loans

A bicyclist takes advantage of the new addition to Motor Parkway Trail alongside Eisenhower Park in Nassau County as County Executive Laura Curran announces progress in containing the coronavirus and plans to reopen beaches, parks, marinas, golf, and tennis in time for Memorial Day (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

Nassau County and Suffolk Counties are expected to meet the state’s metrics to reopen by next week, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said, even as the counties, and New York State move forward with reopening beaches, parks, golf courses, tennis and marinas this Memorial Day weekend, and will honor the fallen on Memorial Day with car parades and a televised wreath laying ceremony.

State beaches, including Jones Beach, are open, while Nassau County beaches will reopen to residents. Beaches are limiting capacity to 50 percent, through limiting parking, and social distancing and rules regarding wearing a mask in public and when 6-feet separation cannot be maintained, are in place.

The Bethpage Memorial Day Air Show that traditionally takes place at Jones Beach State Park will go on “virtually” on the airshow’s web page.  Nassau County will conduct an auto parade and a small wreath-laying ceremony at the Veterans Memorial within Eisenhower Park; the Memorial Day events will be televised beginning at 9:30 am.

Meanwhile, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran encouraged residents to take advantage of the county’s expanded biking/walking/recreational trails. Speaking at Eisenhower Park, showcased the newly completed 1.4 mile expansion of the Motor Parkway Trail, a multi-use trail that currently spans from Hofstra University, to Museum Row, to Eisenhower Park. The expansion was completed in time for National Bike Month, which runs through the month of May.  The trail serves as a recreational connection of 11 continuous miles through Nassau County for hikers and bicyclists, directly serving the Nassau Hub area. Curran said that ultimately, the county’s Department of Public Works in conjunction with the Trust for Public Land, will extend the trail to connect with Bethpage State Park, where there is a stunning 15-mile long bikeway, and will eventually reach to the Nassau-Suffolk line. The bike paths offer an alternative to using an automobile.

Car collector and historian Howard Kroplick shows a photo of his beloved 1909 Alco Black Beast competing in the Vanderbilt Cup race on the Vanderbilt Motorway. The race 112 years ago was the first international automobile race in the US. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Indeed, the Motor Parkway was built by William Kissam Vanderbilt as the first roadway specifically designed for automobile use only. It hosted the first international automobile race in the United States, 112 years ago. Howard Kroplick, a car collector and historian who owns the 1909 Alco “Black Beast” which twice won the Vanderbilt Cup race.

Additional biking trails throughout the County can be found on an interactive map on the County’s website at: www.nassaucountyny.gov/biketrailmap

“It shows government works for the people,” Curran said, adding that the 930acre Eisenhower Park, with its golf courses, mini-golf, tennis, pool, skating rink, actually is larger than New York City’s Central Park.

Nassau County, being contiguous with New York City, has been a hotspot for coronavirus, but the County executive pointed to positive metrics, including the most critical one, the number of deaths falling from peaking at 219 in a single day (April 6) to five; the number of new cases a day went from a peak of 2477 hospitalizations to 564 today; from 592 ICU patients at its peak, April 14, to 178 today.

Nassau County Executive Nassau Laura Curran points to the reduction in COVID-19 cases so the county can reopen © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Residents have “quarantine fatigue” she said, which is why opening outdoor recreation is so important. She said that nonprofit venues, like Old Westbury Gardens, the Planting Fields, the Bailey Arboretum, also can be opened safely, limiting capacity, in order to give people more things to do.

Nassau County’s economy has been decimated by the pandemic and the lockdown. Curran said.

She warned of a collapse of downtowns and the county’s small businesses.

“We see businesses suffering, lay offs,” she said. The county budget,  which depends for 40 percent of its revenue on sales taxes, expects a 20 percent decline in those revenues – a loss of $438 million out of a $3.5 billion budget. The county is projecting a $384 million deficit.

She insisted the county has no intention of furloughing workers. “We have the best employees. We have a lean operation. I will stand by (our workers). Think of everything they have done –the  DPW, police, health, consumer affairs – all going nonstop, serving residents. We need help from the federal government.”

The county, she said, has so far received $108 million from federal aid, but the county’s payroll is $80 million a month.

Nassau County’s downtown small businesses have suffered as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo has just announced New York Forward Small Business Loan Fund © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Consequently, the state’s new focus on getting funding to small businesses will be a boon to Nassau.

“Small business is a priority,” Governor Cuomo said at his May 22 coronavirus briefing. “The federal government’s small business assistance program has run out of money. Small businesses have taken a beating – they are 90% of New York businesses, and facing the toughest challenges. The economic projections are frightening” – more than 100,000 nationwide are estimated to have shut permanently since the pandemic escalated in March. Minority- and women-owned businesses have been especially disadvantaged by the federal program.

Cuomo announced the state was initiating its own small business relief program which will make available $100 million in New York Forward Loan Fund (NYFLF), with a focus on minority- and women-owned businesses with 20 or fewer employees and less than $3 million in gross revenues, that have not received federal support (https://esd.ny.gov/economic-recovery-covid-19-loans-small-businesses).

The state also is permitting the staging for construction projects in anticipation of the county reopening.

The lag in reopening the county has also hurt real estate sales, Curran said. New Jersey and Connecticut are seeing a boon in New Yorkers looking to escape the city for suburbs.  “We don’t want to lose out. We have all price ranges here.”

Socially distancing in Eisenhower Park, Nassau County, NY (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

Meanwhile, Curran announced that the Nickerson Beach cabanas will be open for the summer season on June 21. 

“The Cabanas at Nickerson are a beloved tradition of our County’s beach culture and for many it wouldn’t be summer without them. I am glad we are able to return a tiny of bit of normalcy to our residents and allow them to enjoy this amenity along with our beautiful south shore beach.  We will have new guidelines in place to ensure that people are able to enjoy the cabanas in a safe way,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. 

Nickerson Beach has long offered cabanas for rent during the summer season on the eastern and western ends of the park. Each year, a lottery is held to determine eligibility for available spots. There are 498 cabanas and 147 cabinettes. The County released directives to ensure all renters can utilize the cabanas safely while abiding by social distancing guidelines.  The County will be monitoring compliance of these rules.

  • The County will be implementing a density reduction plan by reducing parking to 50 percent occupancy.
  • Cabanas may only be used to store food, change clothes and store beach chairs, tables and umbrellas. 
  • Congregation in and around cabanas will not be permitted.
  • The County will be reaching out to cabana renters to ascertain their interest in voluntarily forgoing their use this season.  Those renters who chose to pass on utilization this season will have their renting rights honored with no penalty in the 2021 season. The County will be releasing a fee reduction plan for those who chose to rent this season.
  • Use of indoor amenities, except for bathrooms, at beach clubs are not permitted at this time.  The County is waiting on New York State guidance on opening pools. 

Meanwhile, the Governor is looking to allow religious centers to conduct services, limiting participation and requiring social distancing, and is also looking to for a return of professional sports but without fans in arenas.

Wearing a mask has become a symbol of political identity. But New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, who insists he has concertedly stayed away from politics (“This virus isn’t red or blue, the dead are red-white-and-blue”) is so keen on emphasizing the importance of wearing a mask to keep down the rates of infection, hospitalization and deaths from COVID-19, the state is mounting a contest for a public service announcement. Five finalists have been selected. To vote (by May 25) go to coronavirus.health.ny.gov/wear-mask © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Cuomo has insisted that testing, tracing and isolation are key to reopening without triggering new spikes in contagion that could force the economy to shut down again. He encouraged anyone to get tested and announced a new pilot program with 52 independent pharmacies to conduct 7000 tests per week.

“New York is doing more testing than any other state, any other nation.” He said that so much testing is available that many of the places are doing thousands fewer tests a day than they can accommodate.

If you have any symptoms or feel you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, he urged, go to coronavirus.health.ny.gov  to find out where to go for a test.

The state has mounted the most aggressive contact tracing program, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and developed by Johns Hopkins.

Cuomo said New York would share the software and training program with any state that requests it, through the National Governors Association, at no cost.

Cuomo stressed the importance of wearing a mask as key to preventing a resurgence of coronvirus outbreaks that could once again shut down the economy. As proof, he notes that doctors and nurses in the Emergency Room, first responders and frontline workers have lower rates of the infection than the general population because they wear masks.  The state has mounted a video contest for a public service announcement. Five finalists have been selected. To vote (by May 25) go to coronavirus.health.ny.gov/wear-mask. The winner will be unveiled on May 26. In just 2 ½ days, some 92,000 voted.

Bethpage Jones Beach Memorial Day Air Show Virtually

The famous US Navy Blue Angels put on a thrilling display during the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach, Long Island. This year, the event will be conducted virtually. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

While there won’t be an actual Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach, you can see photo highlights of past shows here:

16th annual Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach, Long Island, Honors Spirit of Memorial Day

Photo Highlights from 15th Annual Memorial Day Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach, Long Island

US Navy Blue Angels at 15th Annual Memorial Day Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach, Long Island: Photo Highlights

USAF Thunderbirds Headline Memorial Day Weekend Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach, Long Island

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© 2020 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

In Face of COVID-19, NYS Enhances Domestic Violence Services, Expands Testing, Expedites Absentee Voting & Vows to Come Out of Crisis Better

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo: “It makes no sense to me to tell people you have to put your life at risk, violate social distancing to come out to vote.” Cuomo is instructing the Board of Elections to automatically send out a postage paid application for an absentee ballot (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

In the face of a dangerous uptick of domestic violence incidents, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the immediate modernization of the state’s domestic violence hotline with a new text program and confidential online service to aid victims of abuse and provide potential lifesaving ways to get help. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the necessary social distancing guidelines, domestic violence victims are even more vulnerable and unsafe while isolated at home without being able to get away from their abuser and there has been a reported uptick in the number of domestic violence cases in the state. Calls to the state’s domestic violence hotline are up 30 percent in April compared to last year and calls increased 18 percent from February to March 2020. State Police also report domestic violence incident calls were up 15 percent in March compared to last year.

For many victims, making a phone call to get help or accessing services may be impossible because their abuser can easily monitor their calls. The new text program and confidential online service will make it easier for these victims in isolation to contact the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and get the help they need.

New Yorkers seeking help can text 844-997-2121 or chat with a professional on the new confidential website at www.opdv.ny.gov. The text and online services will be staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with OPDV staff who are experts in the area of domestic violence.

“New Yorkers are living through an unimaginably stressful period and we’re seeing signs that domestic violence is on the rise as victims are stuck at home with their abusers and unable to access the help they need,” Governor Cuomo said.”We’ve been working with state agencies to help address this issue and provide more resources, and this new text program and confidential online service will help make it easier for victims to get the help they need and get out of potentially dangerous situations.”

“The reality is that abuse victims are often closely surveilled by their abuser,” Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor and Chair of the New York State Council on Women and Girls, said. “In New York, no one should be at risk because they can’t find a way to make their need for help known.  The text and online confidential service programs we are rolling out today will provide additional and better methods for victims of domestic violence to get the help and intervention they need when they need it.”

Since NYS on PAUSE went into effect, OPDV and many state agency partners have been working diligently to pursue strategies for putting safety information in front of victims in places that such information would not normally be available, including on social media accounts of public utilities or tax/finance.  Additionally, major efforts have been underway to get safety flyers with the Hotline number hung up in essential retailers, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and home repair stores, among others.

Such social services, though, would be in jeopardy because of the extraordinary financial crisis that New York State, with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country and the world, is experiencing. The Governor outlined the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state. New York State revenues are estimated to decline by $13.3 billion – or 14 percent – from the Executive Budget forecast. Additionally, the revenues are estimated to decline by $61 billion over the financial plan period of FY 2021 to FY 2024.

New York State faces extraordinary costs to address the coronavirus pandemic at the same time revenues have come to a virtual halt. That is forcing Governor Cuomo to contemplate what cuts could be made.

“New York State was not, quote, unquote, in trouble before this happened,” Cuomo said. “New York State was very, very strong before this happened. Our economy was growing. It was growing at a very high rate. Our government spending has been at record lows. The spending increases. Our taxes today are lower than the day I took office….

“And then this economic tsunami hits and you shut down all the businesses, everybody stays home, they’re not getting a paycheck. They feel economic anxiety. The consequence to the state is the revenue projections are way down. What do we do about it?”

 But despite passing nearly $3 trillion in economic stimulus virtually all of it going to businesses, Senate Majority Leader, Republican Mitch McConnell said he has no intention of bailing out “blue states.” States, he said, should go bankrupt, instead.

Cuomo, during his press briefing, said that states are not allowed to declare bankruptcy – that would require McConnell to pass a law and for Trump to sign it.

“It’s a really dumb idea. People are trying to talk about bringing the economy back, reopen, we have to get the economy moving again. And then rather than provide financial aid to the states that got hit by this economic tsunami through no fault of their own, the suggestion was made, states should declare bankruptcy. A few problems with that premise. Forget the morality of it and the ethics of it and the absurdity of it and the meanness of it. Legally, a state can’t declare bankruptcy. You would need a federal law allowing states to declare bankruptcy. So to the Senate that proposed it, I say pass a law allowing states to declare bankruptcy. I dare you. And let the President sign that bill that says, ‘I give the states the legal ability to declare bankruptcy.’

“You want to send a signal to the markets that this nation is in real trouble? You want to send an international message that the economy is in turmoil? Do that, allow states to declare bankruptcy legally because you passed the bill. It will be the first time in our nation’s history that that happened. I dare you to do that. And then we’ll see how many states actually take you up on it. I know I wouldn’t. But if you believe what you said, and you have the courage of conviction because you’re a man of your word, pass that bill if you weren’t just playing politics. We’ll see how long it takes him to do it.”

Meanwhile, the Governor is addressing voting. “We still have elections in the midst of all this chaos. We have seen elections held where we had people on lines for a long period of time. It makes no sense to me to tell people you have to put your life at risk, violate social distancing to come out to vote. So, we passed an executive order that said you can vote by absentee. Today, I’m asking the Board of Elections to send every New York voter what’s called a – automatically receives a postage paid application for a ballot. If you want to vote, we should send you a ballot so you can vote, so you don’t have to come out and get in a line.

“Then looking ahead, more testing. We’re making great progress on that. New York State is doing more testing than any state in the country right now. New York State is doing more tests than any country per capita on the globe right now. That is what will educate our moving forward. Watch the spread of the virus. It’s getting warmer, more people are going to be coming out of their homes. That’s going to happen naturally. Watch that spread. Testing gives you those numbers on an ongoing basis. Maintain social distancing. Also, plan on a reopening and not just reopening what was.”

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo: “We will reopen and rebuild – not what was, but better and smarter.” (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Cuomo stressed, as he has done in the past, that coming out of this “horrific experience” should be “a period of growth. It should be a period of reflection. If we’re smart and we use it that way, there are lessons to learn here if we’re smart and we have the courage to look in the mirror. We went through 9/11. We were smarter for it. We went through World War II. We were the better for it. We went through Superstorm Sandy. We learned, we grew and we were the better for it. We should do the same thing here. People have totally changed their lifestyle. What have we learned? How can we have a better health care system that can actually handle public health emergencies? How do we have a better transportation system? How do we have a smarter telemedicine system? How do we use technology and education better? Why do some children have to go to a parking lot to get Wi-Fi to do their homework? How do we learn from this and how do we grow?”

“And let New York lead the way because we’re New York tough. But New York tough, when they say we’re tough, yeah, we’re tough, but we think tough incorporates being smart and being disciplined and being unified and being loving.”

Virus Entered New York Through Europe

“People are also talking about a second wave, potential of a second wave. People are talking about potential for the virus to come back in the fall which means the game is not over which means the game could be just at halftime so let’s make sure we’re learning the lessons of what has happened thus far and let’s make sure we are being truthful with ourselves. Not that we are deceiving anyone else but let’s be truthful with ourselves. I don’t think we’re deceiving anyone else but let’s make sure we’re not deceiving ourselves. What has happened, what should we learn from as far as what has happened thus far so we make sure we don’t make the same mistakes again and let’s do that now.

“This was our first global pandemic. Welcome. There had been people who talked about global pandemics before. Bill Gates had talked about the potential of a global pandemic during the Obama Administration. They talked about being prepared for a global pandemic but it was almost always an academic exercise, what if, what if, what if. Once it happens, once it actualizes for people, then it’s different. Then people get it. We now know that a global pandemic is not just a text-book exercise, not just a table-top exercise. It can happen. When it happens, it’s devastating. Let’s just learn from what happened on the first one. Let’s just get the basic lesson of what happened on the first one.

“Last November, December, we knew that China had a virus outbreak. You can read about it in the newspapers. Everybody knew. January 26, we know we had the first confirmed case in Seattle, Washington and California. February 2nd, the president ordered a travel ban from china. March 1st, we have the first confirmed case in the State of New York. By March 19th, New York State is totally closed down. No state moved faster from first case to closedown than the State of New York. March 16, we have a full travel ban from Europe.

“Researchers now find, and they report in some newspapers, the virus was spreading wildly in Italy in February. And there was an outbreak, massive outbreak in Italy in February. Researchers now say there were likely 28,000 cases in the United States in February, including 10,000 cases in the State of New York. And, the coronavirus that came to New York did not come from China. It came from Europe.

“When you look at the number of flights that came from Europe to New York, the New York metropolitan area, New York and New Jersey, during January, February up to the closedown, 13,000 flights bringing 2.2 million people.

“So November, December, you have the outbreak in China, everybody knows. January, February, flights are coming from Europe, people are also coming from China in January, until the China closedown. And the flights continue to come from Europe until the Europe shutdown. 2.2 million people come to New York and come to New Jersey. We acted two months after the China outbreak. When you look back, does anyone think the virus was still in China, waiting for us to act, two months later? We all talk about the global economy, and how fast people move, and how mobile we are. How can you expect that when you act two months after the outbreak in China, the virus was only in China, waiting for us to act? The horse had already left the barn by the time we moved.

“Research now says, knowing the number of flights coming to New York from Italy, it was like watching a horrible train wreck in slow motion. Those are the flights that were coming from Italy and from Europe, January and February. We closed the front door, with the China travel ban, which was right, even in retrospect it was right. But we left the back door open, because the virus had left China by the time we did the China travel ban. That’s what the researchers are now saying, with 28,000 cases in the United States, 10,000 in New York.

“So, what is the lesson? An outbreak anywhere is an outbreak everywhere. When you see November and December, an outbreak in China, just assume the next day it’s in the United States. When they say it’s in China, just assume that virus got on a plane that night and flew to New York or flew to Newark airport, and it’s now in New York. That has to be the operating mentality. Because you don’t know that the virus didn’t get on a plane. All you need is one person to get on that plane in China and come to New York. The way this virus transfers, that’s all you need. And you can’t assume two months later the virus is still going to be sitting on a park bench in China waiting for you to get there. That is the lesson. And again, why do we need to learn the lesson? Because they’re talking about this happening again with this virus where it could mutate in China, and get on a plane, and come right back. Or the next virus, or the next pandemic.“

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© 2020 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

Cuomo Hits Back at McConnell’s ‘Drop Dead Blue States’ Remarks as GOP Says Will Put Brakes on Aid in Midst of Pandemic

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo hit back hard on Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch  McConnell signaling he would block aid to states most impacted by the coronavirus. McConnell boasted in a press release that he had no intention of bailing out “blue states.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo hit back hard on Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch  McConnell signaling he would block aid to states most impacted by the coronavirus. McConnell, boasted in a press release that he had no intention of bailing out “blue states.”

Cuomo, who is staring down a $15 billion budget deficit, said that without federal aid, states (which are not allowed to go bankrupt) would be forced to cut back on health workers, police, fire, teachers, mass transit and social services as the state.

“15,000 people died in New York, but they were predominantly Democratic so why help them? Don’t help New York State because it is a Democratic state? How ugly a thought. Think of what he’s saying,” Cuomo said during his April 23 press briefing.

“For crying out loud, if there were ever a time for you to put aside your pettiness, your partisanship, your political lens you see the world through – help Republicans but not Democrats – that’s not who we are. If ever there was a time for humanity, decency, now is the time.”

Except that is exactly who McConnell and the Republicans are, and demonstrated it through every crisis.

McConnell is clearly seeing the political advantage of pushing Blue States into near bankruptcy – that figured into how he constructed the 2017 Tax Act which limited the deductibility of State and Local Taxes (SALT) because it would adversely impact blue states over red ones, force state government to cut back on services or risk a tax revolt.

But Cuomo also pointed to the stupidity of that: California is the world’s 5th largest economy and accounts for 14% of US GDP; New York State is the third largest economy in US, accounting for 8% of GDP – taken together, these two states alone account for nearly one-fourth of GDP.

“If New York and California are allowed to go bankrupt, that would take down the entire economy,” Cuomo said.

Moreover, Cuomo insisted, “When it comes to fairness, New York State puts much more money into the federal pot than it takes out. At the end of the year, we put in $116 billion more than we take out. His state, Kentucky, takes out $148 billion more than they put in. He’s a federal legislator distributing the federal pot of money  and New York puts in more money to fed pot than takes out, his state takes out more than it puts in. Senator McConnell,  who’s getting bailed out? It’s your state that is living on the money that we generate. Your state is getting bailed out. Not my state.

“How do you not fund schools, hospitals in the midst of crisis, police, fire, healthcare – frontline – if you can’t fund the state, the state can’t fund those services. It makes no sense.” (Probably the same way you cut $500 million in funding to the World Health Organization in the midst of a pandemic.)

“The entire nation depends on what governors do to reopen,  but then not fund state government? I am I going to do it alone?

“States should declare bankruptcy? That’s how to bring the national economy back? You want to see that market fall through the cellar, just let New York State declare bankruptcy, Michigan, Illinois, California declare bankruptcy. You will see a collapse of the national economy. That’s just dumb.”

Reports are showing that the $350 billion intended to help small businesses get through the crisis has almost entirely gone to big, profitable businesses and entities with close ties to banks. (See: Banks Gave Richest Clients ‘Concierge Treatment’ for Pandemic Aid)

The National Governors Association, a bipartisan group of governors from around the country, wrote federal officials this week pleading for $500 billion to help them make up for lost tax revenues during what they called “the most dramatic contraction of the U.S. economy since World War II.”

None of the four stimulus bills that have passed the Senate, amounting to trillions of dollars of funding, have provided any aid to states hardest hit by the virus. As it happened, these happen to be Democratic states – New York, which accounts for almost one-third of all coronavirus cases and deaths; New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois and California.

Republicans have been gleeful at sending billions to corporations and well-connected, able to skirt whatever oversight and provisions the Democrats had tried to impose (Trump said he would take the reporting requirements as a suggestion and promptly fired the Inspector General), balked at expanding unemployment assistance, and reneged on promises to help states now billions in the red because of the expenses of maintaining services as revenues have all but dried up with the lock-down of all but essential work.

Mimicking his obstruction to Obama’s recovery when refused to allocate enough money for the Recovery Act, McConnell has been content to see the budget deficit rise by $3 trillion (on top of the $1 trillion Trump added even as the economy boomed, because of the Republican tax scam) as long as it could be steered to friendly industries and donors, now  expressed glee to let blue states go bankrupt.

“I think this whole business of additional assistance for state and local governments needs to be thoroughly evaluated,” McConnell said in an interview with the conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. “There’s not going to be any desire on the Republican side to bail out state pensions by borrowing money from future generations.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has consistently asserted that future stimulus bills would send aid to states and localities, but McConnell is now signaling that now that they have gotten four stimulus bills amounting to a slush fund with little oversight and accountability, they will be unwilling to provide direct help to states. All of a sudden, they are concerned about rising debt. (Reminder: Republicans shut down government and threatened to refuse to raise the debt ceiling during Obama unless Obama would rescind Obamacare from the budget.)

Once this last stimulus bill passes the House, as is expected, Democrats will lose all leverage to get aid to states, localities, hospitals, workers and the unemployed.

Meanwhile, Cuomo reported on the preliminary results of the state’s first statewide survey intended to determine what percentage of the population has antibodies after being exposed to the infection.

The preliminary results suggest that 13.6% of the state has been infected (and now has antibodies), with the greatest proportion downstate: 21.2% of people in New York City, 16.7% of Long Island, 11.7% of Westchester/Rockland and 3.6% of the rest of the state. The 3,000 in the sample were randomly surveyed in grocery stores and box-stores – in other words, people who were out and about.

Based on that infection rate, it would suggest that 2.7 million New Yorkers have been infected. If that were true, the 15,500 fatalities would suggest a death rate of 0.5%. However, Cuomo stressed that the fatalities counted were only those that took place in hospitals and nursing homes, but do not include those who died at home.

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© 2020 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, NJ, CT Unify Regional Approach to Combat Spread of Coronavirus

New York, New Jersey, Connecticut have unified on policies regarding closures, including public schools, to combat the spread of coronavirus (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

Amid a lack of federal direction and nationwide standards, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont today announced a regional approach to combating the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) throughout the tri-state area, in announcing closures of restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters and gatherings over 50 people, as well as public schools.

But the governors all called upon the federal government – the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA – to assist with building emergency hospitals and providing medical equipment and protective gear for health workers.

In what may be the first regional coalition in the country to slow the spread of the infection, these uniform standards will limit crowd capacity for social and recreational gatherings to 50 people, effective 8 PM tonight. This follows updated guidance that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued yesterday recommending the cancellation or postponement of in-person events consisting of 50 people or more.

The three governors also announced restaurants and bars will close for on premise service and move to take-out and delivery services only. These establishments will be provided a waiver for carry-out alcohol. These measures will take effect at 8 PM tonight.

Finally, the three governors said they will temporarily close movie theaters, gyms and casinos, effective at 8 PM tonight. 

This uniform approach to social distancing is meant to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. 

“Our primary goal right now is to slow the spread of this virus so that the wave of new infections doesn’t crash our healthcare system, and everyone agrees social distancing is the best way to do that,” New York Governor Cuomo said. “This is not a war that can be won alone, which is why New York is partnering with our neighboring states to implement a uniform standard that not only keeps our people safe but also prevents ‘state shopping’ where residents of one state travel to another and vice versa. I have called on the federal government to implement nationwide protocols but in their absence we are taking this on ourselves.”

New Jersey Governor Murphy said, “With all we are seeing in our state – and across our nation and around the world – the time for us to take our strongest, and most direct, actions to date to slow the spread of coronavirus is now. I’ve said many times over the past several days that, in our state, we are going to get through this as one New Jersey family. But if we’re all in this together, we must work with our neighboring states to act together. The work against coronavirus isn’t just up to some of us, it’s up to all of us.”

Connecticut Governor Lamont said, “The only way to effectively fight the spread of COVID-19 is by working together as states. We have shared interests, and a patchwork of closures and restrictions is not the best way forward. I know that because of this collaboration, we will save lives.”

But the governors called upon the federal government to quickly assist to address what is anticipated as a critical shortage of hospital capacity, medical equipment and protective gear for health workers.

 “The best way to [add hospital capacity] is the Army Corp of Engineers – they build airports, bridges,” said Governor Cuomo. “They have the personnel, equipment and do it well. They have the medical equipment and experience setting up hospitals. The state doesn’t have existing workforce. We could contract out –and expedite contracting, which is very expensive – but we still don’t have the medical equipment. It is very, very hard for a state to get this equipment. Everybody wants ventilators, oxygen tanks. The federal government has a stockpile of emergency medical equipment. [But], if the federal government doesn’t step up and doesn’t step up quickly, states will be forced to do what they can on own, and New York will do exactly that” – use its own construction authority and Dormitory Authority to build.

New Jersey Governor Murphy said that to expand his state’s hospital capacity, “we are looking at host of contingency plans in similar light. We have had constructive conversations with FEMA, but more about testing. We will take all the help we can get. Our big needs from the federal government alongside testing is personal protective equipment. In long term, we will need help with economic recovery – states can’t do that on own. But our immediate need on personal protective equipment.

 “We need hospital beds and within a couple of weeks,” Connecticut Governor Lamont said. “We are woefully short, especially if a surge comes, even if we flatten the curve in the most optimistic way, we are badly outgunned. We saw what happened in China, where built new hospitals, added capacity in short order.”

The governors said they were not going to shut down public transportation, but to “right size the equipment to ridership,” Governor Murphy said. “There are huge focuses on hygiene, cleanliness, making sure all the equipment is as clean and germ free as possible.”

Meanwhile, the governors are looking to increase telecommunications capacity, to enable people to telecommute, to maintain education online and medical assistance, as well as stay in touch with family.

“We’re working with telecom service providers ,upping capacity, taking away caps, to learn at home, telehealth at home, so people get out of cars and stay closer at home,” Said Governor Lamont. “Ridership on rail is way down.”

“New York also,” Cuomo added. “We want people  to stay home, so we need capacity for telecommuting.”

The three states, acting in concert, are shutting down bars and restaurants except for take out and delivery. The exceptions will be supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations and other essential retailers.

New Jersey is strongly discouraging nonessential travel between 8 pm & 5 am on any given day beginning tonight.

Other states may join New York, New Jersey and Connecticut in a wider regional coalition for coordinated action – including Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Asked about the downsides to closing public schools – including loss of food service for needy children, and child care for workers, Cuomo said, “We will do it in a way that accentuates the upside and negates the downside. The downside is people lose childcare, first responders may not be able to go to work, especially healthcare workers if there isn’t child care, so the crash will be on the healthcare system. So we said that schools can close but must provide child care for essential workers, first responders, healthcare workers. Schools close but we will not stop the food for breakfast, lunch, dinner. Educational opportunities lost but we are planning to continue to teach through telecommuting or summer school if this has abated to that point by summer.

“There are few easy calls on this one,” Governor Murphy said. “There is enormous pressure on the economy, small businesses going forward. In schools, the three issues referenced- food security (we have a couple of hundred thousand kids who depend on schools for a hot meal), child care, remote learning  (250,000 New Jersey kids don’t have access to device). So we are preprinting monthly syllibi. None of these decisions are easy, without offsets. But we believe strongly this is right path to pursue.

As for tribal casinos in New York and Connecticut, which as sovereign nations, the states cannot order to close but Governor Cuomo said “This is a ‘do the right thing’ situation.”

Earlier, Governor Cuomo had issued a ruling to close schools in New York City, Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk, and instructed New York City to develop a plan within 24 hours to ensure children who rely on school breakfast and lunch programs will continue to receive that support, and parents – especially critical healthcare workers and first responders – will be provided access to child care as needed.  

“Our goal is to slow the spread of the virus to a rate that the healthcare system can manage, and one of the ways to do that is to reduce density,” Governor Cuomo said.”Closing the schools is a good idea but you have to anticipate and correct any unintended consequences – we have to ensure children who rely on free school meals continue to get them and that there’s adequate child care, especially for healthcare workers and first responders who are parents of young children. We will close these schools but it needs to be done with these contingencies in mind so that children are not harmed and our hospitals aren’t understaffed – otherwise we cut off our nose to spite our face.”

The Governor also called on 1199 SEIU President George Gresham, New York State Nurses Association President Judy Sheridan Gonzalez, Greater New York Hospitals Association President Ken Raske and United Federation of Teachers President Mike Mulgrew to work together to ensure children who rely on school breakfast and lunch programs will continue to receive that support, and parents will be provided access to child care as needed, including temporary daycare centers. These centers would prioritize care for children of healthcare workers and first responders to ensure these school closures do not strain the hospital and emergency response systems.

Earlier today, the Governor tasked SUNY Empire State College President Jim Malatras with working with counties to develop contingency plans in preparation for school closings, including how to provide meals to food insecure children and ensuring families have adequate access to childcare.

County executives from Westchester, Suffolk and Nassau joined a conference call with Governor Cuomo to discuss the school closures.: 

Westchester County Executive George Latimer said, “Our county has been coordinating with the State to ensure an effective means of slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Cancelling group events and meetings, limiting access for non-essential social contacts and anticipating additional testing and healthcare needs are all part of our response in concert with the Governor and his administration. Closing schools – with adequate childcare and nutrition provisions – is the next step we will undertake this week. We deeply appreciate the leadership shown by Governor Cuomo.”

“Over the last several days we have worked with our state and local partners on the potential closure of schools as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continued to increase around the state,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said. “As part of our larger social distancing efforts, we came to the conclusion that closing schools is the right thing to do at this time. I would like to thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership as we deal with this crisis as well as our school districts for their partnership and swift action to protect Suffolk families.”

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said, “I thank Governor Cuomo for fully supporting our decision to close all public and private schools and for his unwavering commitment to ensure every child in Nassau County is fully taken care of while this crisis continues to unfold. We all agree that nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of our children.”

NYS Restricts Mass Gatherings, Visits to Nursing Homes & Creates Drive-Thru Testing Facility as Numbers of Coronavirus Cases Rise

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, touring Northwell Labratory on Long Island, announced the first public drive-through testing facility for coronavirus on the East Coast and new restrictions on gatherings of more than 500 as the number of coronavirus cases rises in the state © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

With the Trump Administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic in severe disarray, it is falling to states and localities to protect their residents. This is the latest from New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo:

During a novel coronavirus briefing, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the state will institute limits on mass gatherings, directing events with 500 or more individuals in attendance to be cancelled or postponed. Public health experts agree mass gatherings with people making sustained close contact are a place where the novel coronavirus can easily infect many people quickly and continue its spread. As such, events, gatherings, or places of business with less than 500 individuals in attendance will be required to cut capacity by 50 percent, with exceptions being made for spaces where individuals do not make sustained close contact, such as schools, hospitals, public buildings, mass transit, grocery stores and retail stores. These new regulations will go into effect Friday, March 13th at 5pm, with the exception of Broadway Theaters where the limits will go into effect this evening at 5pm.

In an effort to protect some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers, Governor Cuomo also announced only medically necessary visits will be allowed at nursing homes. This policy will be effective Friday at 5pm. The state is also asking nursing homes to set up skyping and other online communication capacity so families can tele-visit their loved ones. Additionally, the state will require health screenings for all nursing home workers each day when they enter a facility and require them to wear surgical masks to guard against any potential asymptomatic spread.

In order to increase testing capacity, the State is contracting with BioReference Laboratories to run an additional 5,000 tests per day on top of what the state is already doing. These additional 5,000 tests per day will come online next week. This additional testing capacity is on top of that of the 28 private labs the Governor announced are partnering with the state in the coming days and weeks. Additionally, the Governor announced the first public drive-through testing facility on the east coast will start testing people tomorrow in New Rochelle. Testing will be done by appointment only. New Rochelle residents who have been quarantined will be tested first. 

Finally, the Governor confirmed 109 additional cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 325 confirmed cases in New York State. Of the 325 total individuals who tested positive for the virus, the geographic breakdown is as follows:

Albany County: 1 (1 new)

Broome County: 1 (1 new)

Delaware County: 1 (1 new)

Dutchess County: 1 (1 new)

Herkimer County: 1 (1 new)

Monroe County: 1 (1 new)

Nassau County: 41 (13 new)

New York City: 95 (43 new)

Orange County: 1 (1 new)

Rockland County: 7 (1 new)

Saratoga County: 3 (1 new)

Suffolk County: 20 (14 new)

Ulster County: 4 (3 new)

Westchester County: 148 (27 new)

“The spread of this coronavirus is not going to stop on its own, and we know that mass gatherings have been hotspots for the virus to infect large numbers of people quickly,” Governor Cuomo said.”To help contain it, we are instituting limits on large events as well as new measures to protect our most vulnerable populations — including people in nursing homes — and preparing our healthcare system to be able to deal with any future capacity issues. While the context is key and the anxiety is outpacing the facts of this situation, we will continue taking aggressive action to protect public health and prepare for any future spread of this virus.”  

“Our number one priority is protecting the public health and every action the Governor and the State of New York have taken thus far have been in furtherance of that goal,” State Health Department Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said. “Public health experts have been clear that limiting large public gatherings where there is potential for close contact is a critical way to slow the spread of this virus. This regulation will help keep people healthy and safe.”

The Governor also announced that the State is taking measures to create a reserve workforce of health care professionals in the event of a staffing shortage and identify state facilities that can be used as temporary hospitals. The State is asking former doctors, nurses and other health care professionals to reconnect with their former employers and offer to work on an on-call basis in the cases of a staffing shortage. The State is also identifying National Guard medics for reserved staffing and contacting medical schools to identify possible reserve health care professionals. Additionally, the Department of Health is accelerating regulations to get more health care personnel trained so they can work in other areas.

For all schools in communities with the highest rates of positive cases, the state will be taking proactive steps to implement protocols that limit mass contact. Today the Governor announced SUNY Albany will cancel in person classes for the rest of the semester effective tomorrow after a positive case was confirmed today.

Additionally, any business that cannot accommodate rigorous cleaning standards should contact Empire State Development at (212) 803-3100 for a close order.

At WorldPride NYC Parade, NYS Governor Cuomo Signs Law Banning Gay, Trans Panic Legal Defense

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo did not come empty-handed to the WorldPride NYC 2019 parade, perhaps the largest LGBTQIA+ Pride event in history: Cuomo used the occasion to sign into law legislation banning the gay and trans panic legal defense © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo did not come empty-handed to the WorldPride NYC 2019 parade, perhaps the largest LGBTQIA+ Pride event in history: Cuomo used the occasion to sign into law legislation banning the gay and trans panic legal defense (S3293/A2707), fulfilling his pledge to ensure nobody uses this abhorrent legal defense strategy in the State of New York. The Governor signed the measure, a key component of his 2019 Justice Agenda, on WorldPride and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. The Governor also vowed to double down next legislative session on his campaign to legalize gestational surrogacy, which the Assembly failed to take up this year.

“The gay and trans panic defense is essentially a codification of homophobia and transphobia, and it is repugnant to our values of equality and inclusion,” Governor Cuomo said at a press conference on the street before joining the parade. “This defense strategy isn’t just offensive – it also sends a dangerous message that violence toward LGBTQ people is somehow OK. It’s not, and today we’re sending this noxious legal tool to the dustbin of history where it belongs.”

At a press conference before joining the parade, Governor Cuomo said, “What a great, great day this is. New York is so proud. New York is so, so, so proud to host WorldPride. 

“New Yorkers are just New Yorkers. Look, all New Yorkers should be very proud because New York has always been the home of the LGBTQ equality movement, always. It all started here. It started at Stonewall, it started when we hosted the first Pride Day ever. And we’ve kept that legacy alive. This is the leading State in the United States of America for LGBTQ equality. And we don’t just say it, we do it. We prove it here in New York.

“What was the first state to address AIDS and announce the goal of ending AIDS as an epidemic? New York. What was the first state to end discrimination against transgender people? New York. What was the first big state to pass marriage equality and send a message across the nation? New York. What was the first state to pass GENDA and end discrimination against transgender people? New York. What was the first state to ban conversion therapy? New York.

“And today, we’re going to sign a bill that ends the codification of homophobia. Because we have now as a law in this state, something called the gay and trans panic defense. That a person can argue – they were so emotionally disturbed when they found out a person was gay or trans that that is actually a justification or an excuse for murder. Not in this state. We are going to – not in this state. Not in this state. Not in this state. Not in this state. Not in this state. And we are going to end the gay and transpanic defense and we are going to do it right now. I will sign this now and end this law. It is now over.

“Congratulations, New York. Let’s lead once again.”

The gay and trans panic defenses allow those accused of violent crimes against LGBTQ people to receive a lesser sentence, and in some cases, avoid conviction, by placing the blame on a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The passage of this bill would close a loophole in state law that currently allows individuals to use the gay and trans panic defenses after attacking another person based upon a perception, or discovery of, that victim’s gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Senator Brad Hoylman said,”By banning the so-called gay and trans panic defense, New York is sending a message to prosecutors, defense attorneys, juries and judges that a victim’s LGBTQ identity shouldn’t be weaponized against them. I’m proud to be a member of a legislature that protects the rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers and thank Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assemblymember O’Donnell for their leadership on this critical issue. As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, I am extremely grateful to Governor Cuomo for signing this critical piece of legislation into law and look forward to continuing to work with him to make New York a more inclusive, equitable home for the LGBTQ community.”

NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo was joined at the WorldPride 2019 parade by Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Chris Quinn, Randi Weingarten, Adriano Espaillat, Jim Gaughran, Jen Metzger, David Weprin, Amy Paulin. Chad Griffin, Alphonso David, Counsel to the Governor, State Senator Brad Hoylman, who’s been a champion, Kristen Browde, Dolores Nettles, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, as well as Cuomo’s three daughters Cara, Mariah, Michaela. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Delores Nettles said, “In 2013, my daughter Islan was killed in Harlem for being who she was. Her attacker used the discriminatory ‘trans panic’ defense. I am so grateful that New York is banning this legislation so that no mother has to go through this again. We must keep fighting so that all trans people can live free from violence and discrimination. Thank you to Governor Cuomo for advocating tirelessly for this bill and for signing it into law today.”

“Banning the “gay and trans panic” defense in New York is an important and long overdue step toward treating the LGBTQ community equitably,” Ethan Rice, Senior Attorney, Fair Courts Project at Lambda Legal. “LGBTQ people in New York should never have to experience violence. When it happens, LGBTQ people certainly should not be faced with blame for this violence. These “defenses” have no place in our justice system. Lambda Legal commends the Governor for signing this bill today and for his ongoing advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ community.”

NYC’s Pride Center celebrating at WorldPride NYC 2019. There was much to celebrate: Governor Cuomo had just signed legislation banning the gay and trans panic legal defense © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Glennda Testone, Executive Director of NYC’s LGBT Community Center said, “New York State government has taken another great step in the right direction, legally halting some enduring elements of homophobia and transphobia ingrained in our society. After establishing marriage equality, passing GENDA and ending conversion therapy in our state, Governor Cuomo showed that he is not done fighting for LGBTQ equality, and neither are we. We thank him for taking the gay and trans panic defense out of New York’s court system and for his commitment to equal rights for all people.”  

“Using an individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender as a defense for violent behavior is abhorrent and will not stand in the State of New York,” Harlem Pride and The NYC Black and Latino LGBTQ Coalition said. “We applaud Governor Cuomo for his leadership and dedication to protecting the LGBTQ community and closing the legal loophole keeping this archaic practice in place.”

Guillermo Chacon, president of the Latino Commission on AIDS and founder of Hispanic Health Network said,”As we celebrate LGBT Pride and the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall uprising we recognize that outlawing the gay and trans panic defense is long overdue in New York.  We appreciate that this legislation will be signed to ensure this can never happen again and that people impacted by homophobia and transphobia are no longer taking the blame for this antiquated loophole. We thank Governor Cuomo for advancing this important issue and I look forward to him signing this law to increase protections for the LGBTQ community.”

Rod Townsend, Community Leader said, “A person’s gender identity or sexual orientation is never a justifiable reason for violent attack, and Governor Cuomo closes the loophole in state law that allowed for it in cases of first degree murder today.  We look forward to seeing justice for individuals impacted by these crime and will fight to further limit the use of this appalling “blame the victim” strategy in cases of violence against LGBTQ people everywhere.”

Amanda Babine, Director of Policy & Programs at the New York Transgender Advocacy Group said,”Banning the ‘gay and trans panic’ defense was a huge win for the LGBTQI community, especially for our Transgender, Gender-Non-Conforming, & Non-Binary siblings. This year alone, ten Transgender women of color have been found dead, one right here in New York. The New York Transgender Advocacy Group stands with pride next to Governor Cuomo as he continues to be a champion for the LGBTQI community here in New York State.”

Brooke Malloy, Executive Director, Rockland County Pride Center said, “New Yorkers do not tolerate hate. We are a state of love and inclusion, and hold firm to our belief in equality for every person. The fact that there ever was a legal defense for crimes committed against the LGBTQ community, specifically based on their actual or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation is disgusting. Thank you to Governor Cuomo for his leadership in ending this abhorrent law, and for always speaking up and protecting LGBTQ New Yorkers.”

Kelly Metzgar, Executive Director, Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance said,”New York State prides itself on being an inclusive, progressive state, where every person can feel safe and welcome. With his work to end the gay and trans panic defense, Governor Cuomo continues to ensure that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, receives equal protection under New York State law. I wish to personally thank Governor Cuomo, on behalf of residents in the Adirondack North Country for his relentless work to defend the rights of all who call this beautiful state our home.”

Christopher Goodwin, Supervisor of The MOCHA Center Rochester said, “We at The MOCHA Center and Trillium Health applaud Governor Cuomo for taking swift, progressive action to protect and uphold the rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers. Thanks to his efforts, a dangerous loophole rooted in hate has been erased from our criminal justice system. The gay and trans panic defense should never have been allowed. LGBTQ New Yorkers are grateful that we can now feel safer knowing that we are one step closer to having our lives equally valued and represented under the law.”

Jeff Rindler, Executive Director, Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center said, “This revision to our legal system has been long overdue. The human rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers are non-negotiable, and now this hateful excuse will no longer be a permissible defense for homophobic and transphobic hate crimes, which are on the rise. For transgender women of color who experience higher rates of violence, this law is the next step in solidifying protections for our community. I applaud and thankGovernor Cuomo and all the advocates and legislators who worked tirelessly to pass this legislation.”

Kelsey Louie, CEO, GMHC said, “The beginning of the Stonewall rebellion was in New York City and it was in reaction to hate-fueled actions. Fifty years have passed since the beginning of our LGBT rights movement and New York has been a model for LGBT equality, setting a national standard that the rest of the country must follow. We thank Governor Cuomo for closing a loophole which permitted the murder of gay and trans New Yorkers due to their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. This ensures that justice will be served for LGBTQ New Yorkers who are the victims of homophobia and transphobia.”

Kristen Prata Browde, Board President, LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York and Co-Chair Board of Directors, National Trans Bar Association said,”This shows the kind of change that good government can and should bring. Banning the trans and gay panic defense is a huge step towards equality for LGBTQ New Yorkers. Governor Cuomo not only recognized the absurdity of giving someone a lesser sentence or even a pass after murdering someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, he fought hard for the ban. As the Governor signs the bill he is once again showing that New York truly is a beacon to the world and to every LGBTQ person.”

The Governor also released a new video for social media featuring Delores Nettles, the mother of Islan Nettles, a transgender woman who was brutally murdered in Harlem in 2013 and whose assailant used the gay and trans panic legal defense in court. Watch the video here.

Cuomo Takes Bow in Delivering on Justice Agenda, Calling Legislative Session ‘Most Productive in Modern Political History’

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo took a deserved bow in delivering on the Justice Agenda he laid out at his inauguration, calling this year’s Legislative Session “the most productive in modern political history.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo took a deserved bow in announcing historic progressive accomplishments during this year’s Legislative Session, delivering on his 2019 Justice Agenda first laid out in December, and calling it “the most productive in modern political history.”

“These sweeping reforms will ensure social and economic justice for all New Yorkers, address the devastating impact of climate change, support New York’s ongoing commitment to workers’ rights, modernize transportation systems across the state, and enhance the Empire State’s nation-leading commitment to gender equity and LGBTQ rights. All of this was done while enacting fiscally responsible policies including holding spending growth to 2 percent for the ninth consecutive year, enacting a permanent property tax cap and cutting taxes for the middle class,” the governor’s office stated.

“Six months ago we laid out our 2019 Justice Agenda – an aggressive blueprint to move New York forward – and today I’m proud to say we got it done,” Governor Cuomo said. “At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is what you accomplish, and this was the most progressively productive legislative session in modern history. The product was extraordinary, and we maintained our two pillars – fiscal responsibility and economic growth paired with social progress on an unprecedented and nation-leading scale.”

Here’s a synopsis:

Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act: This legislation enacts the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, creating the most aggressive climate change program in the nation with goals to: reach zero carbon emissions in the electricity sector by 2040; install 9 GW of offshore wind by 2035; 6GW of solar by 2025; 3 GW of energy storage by 2030; and directs state entities to work toward a goal of investing 40 percent of clean energy and energy efficiency resources to benefit disadvantaged communities. Additionally, the law creates the Climate Action Council comprised of the leaders of various state agencies and authorities as well as legislative appointments to develop a plan outlining how the state will achieve an 85% reduction in GHG emissions from 1990 levels by 2050, and eventually net zero emissions in all sectors of the economy. 

Permanent Property Tax Cap: Made permanent the 2% property tax cap, building upon the approximate $25 billion in taxpayer savings since it was implemented in 2012.

MTA Money and Management: Funded the MTA with an estimated $25 billion raised through Central Business District tolling, a new progressive mansion tax, and the elimination of the internet tax advantage. Implemented overdue MTA reforms including the developing a reorganization plan, modifying MTA Board appointments to align with appointing authority, requiring the MTA to undergo an independent forensic audit and efficiency review, and calling for a major construction review unit made up of outside experts to review major projects.

Advancing LGBTQ Rights: Governor Cuomo is enacting transformative legislation in support of LGBTQ rights, including the elimination of the gay and trans panic defense—closing a loophole in state law that allowed individuals to use the gay and trans panic defenses after attacking another based upon that victim’s gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. The Governor also enacted into law the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and a ban on LGBTQ conversion therapy.

Establish a Farmworkers Bill of Rights: This legislation established a farmworkers bill of rights, granting overtime pay, a rest day and the right to unionize.

Enact Additional Sexual Harassment Protections: This package of reforms will lower the high bar set for employees to hold employers accountable under the New York Human Rights Law for sexual harassment by amending the requirement that conduct be “severe or pervasive” to constitute actionable conduct; extend the statute of limitations for employment sexual harassment claims filed with the Division of Human Rights from one year to three years; and protect employees’ rights to pursue complaints by mandating that all non-disclosure agreements in employment contracts include language stating that employees may still participate in government investigations conducted by local, state, and federal anti-discrimination agencies

Expand Statutes of Limitations for Rape: Statutes of limitations on rape cases impose a ticking clock on how long victims are able to come forward if they want to seek charges. Over the last year, victims who have suffered in silence for decades have bravely spoken about their abuse, and also have laid bare the state’s limited ability to prosecute their abusers due to the passage of time. In recognition of this fact, states across the country are lengthening or eliminating the statutes of limitations on crimes of sexual violence. This legislation extends the statute of limitations for Rape in the Second Degree and Third Degree, and expand the civil statute of limitations for claims related to these offenses, allowing victims greater opportunity to obtain justice.

Closing the Gender Wage Gap: Since taking office, Governor Cuomo has fought aggressively to increase safeguards for women in the workplace and close the gender pay gap in New York. This package of reforms includes legislation to expand the definition of “equal pay for equal work” to prohibit unequal pay on the basis of a protected class for all substantially similar work and to close any loopholes employers try to use to pay people less on the basis of their gender, race or other protected classes; as well as a salary history ban, which prohibits employers from asking or relying on salary history of applicants and employees in making job offers or determining wages.

Reauthorize and Expand the MWBE Program: The Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise program has been highly successful since its inception, establishing the highest goals for MWBE participation in the entire nation and awarding thousands of state contracts to minority-owned and women-owned businesses. This legislation reauthorizes the MWBE program and extends the provisions of law relating to the participation of MWBEs in state contracts to ensure this effective program continues.

Tenant Protections: This package of reforms, known as Housing Stability and Tenant Protection act of 2019, enacts the most sweeping, aggressive tenant protections in state history, safeguarding affordable housing for millions of New Yorkers.

Remove the Non-Medical Exemptions for Vaccines: The United States is currently experiencing the worst outbreak of measles in more than 25 years, with outbreaks in pockets of New York primarily driving the crisis. As a result of non-medical vaccination exemptions, many communities across New York have unacceptably low rates of vaccination, and those unvaccinated children can often attend school where they may spread the disease to other unvaccinated students. This new law will remove non-medical exemptions from school vaccination requirements for children and help protect the public amid this ongoing outbreak.

Ensuring Quality Education: School aid increased by over $1 billion, bringing total school aid to a record $27.9 billion. In addition, new reporting requirements will address imbalances in the distribution of resources by prioritizing funding at the individual school level in order to advance a more transparent, equitable education system.

Makes the Jose R. Peralta DREAM Act a Reality: Finally opens the doors of higher education to thousands of New Yorkers by giving undocumented New York students the same advantages given to their citizen peers, including access to the Tuition Assistance Program and state administered scholarships such as Excelsior.

Expands Eligibility for the Excelsior Scholarship Free Tuition Program: As the state’s successful free tuition program enters its third year, students whose families make up to $125,000 annually will now be eligible to apply for the program, allowing more than 55 percent of full-time, in-state SUNY and CUNY students—or more than 210,000 New York residents—to attend college tuition-free when combined with TAP assistance.

Criminal Justice Reform: Sweeping criminal justice reform was delivered by eliminating cash bail for misdemeanors and non-violent offenses, ensuring the right to a speedy trial, and transforming the discovery process.

Continued Investment in Infrastructure: Builds upon the Governor’s unprecedented commitment to invest $150 billion in infrastructure projects over the next five years.

Delivering on the Gateway Tunnel Project: This legislation establishes the Gateway Development Commission and creates a comprehensive rail investment program for purposes of the project. This bi-state effort, in cooperation with New Jersey, represents significant progress on a crucial project for our nation’s economy and security while restoring our role as a global leader in infrastructure.

Protecting the Environment: The launch of the Green New Deal—the most aggressive environmental protection initiative in the nation, the ban of single-use plastic bags, launch of the food waste recycling program and investment of an additional $500 million in clean water infrastructure, increasing the State’s historic investment to $3 billion, all of which serves to protect New Yorkers while combatting some of the most pressing threats to the environment.

Keeping New Yorkers Healthy: By codifying provisions of the Affordable Care Act, New Yorkers can rest assured that their health needs will be covered, regardless of Washington’s actions.

Supporting Workers’ Rights: Extended Janus protections to all local governments and guaranteed the right to organize and collectively bargain.

Promoting the Democracy Agenda: To boost New York’s voter turnout and ensure that New York’s elections remain fair and transparent, the following initiatives were enacted this year: synchronized federal and state elections, pre-registration for minors, early voting, universal transfer of registration, and the advancement of no-excuse absentee voting, and same-day registration.

Common Sense Gun Reform: Building upon the SAFE Act—the strongest gun control legislation in the country—additional measures were enacted this year to ensure guns were kept out of the wrong hands, including the Red Flag Bill, ban on bump stocks, and extending the background check waiting period.

Signing the Child Victims Act: The signing of this long-awaited legislation provided necessary relief to child victims of sexual abuse by amending New York’s antiquated laws to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable for their actions, regardless of when the crime occurred.

Closing the LLC Loophole: Closed the LLC loophole by limiting political spending by an LLC to a total of $5,000 annually, which is the same limit as corporations. The new law also requires the disclosure of direct and indirect membership interests in the LLC making a contribution, and for the contribution to be attributed to that individual.

2019 Women’s Justice Agenda Accomplishments: With the passage of the Reproductive Health Act, Comprehensive Coverage Contraceptive Act, and the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, as well as the ban on revenge porn, and strengthened protections for breastfeeding in the workplace, Governor Cuomo continued his commitment to ensuring fairness and equality for women across New York State.

New capital funding investments this year include:

  • Full Funding for Extreme Winter Recovery: $65 million in State funding for the Extreme WINTER Recovery program. Provides enhanced assistance to local governments for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of local highways and roads impacted by New York State’s harsh winter weather. This unprecedented infrastructure investment in local roads and bridges is in addition to the $478 million in State funding provided through the CHIPS and Marchiselli programs, and $200 million for PAVE-NY and Bridge NY.
  • $120 Million Public Housing Investment: Building on the State’s unprecedented $550 million investment in the New York City Housing Authority, the Governor and Legislature are providing an additional $100 million in capital funding to help support its ongoing transformation while providing $20 million to support housing authorities and other housingoutside of New York City.
  • $100 Million for the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative: The Governor and Legislature are providing $100 million in capital funding to support the State’s up to $300 million commitment to communities impacted by Lake Ontario Flooding. Launched last month, the REDI Commission is working with localities along the shoreline to identify and support projects that will reduce the flooding risk to infrastructure while strengthening the region’s local economies.
  • $20 Million for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority: A $20 million capital appropriation is provided to support the first year of a five-year $100 million commitment from the Governor and Legislature to theNFTA to fund a five-year capital plan for maintenance and improvements of Metro Rail.
  • Penn Station 33rd Street Entrance: $425 million in capital funding will support the Penn Station 33rd Street Entrance project, and others associated with improvements to the Long Island Railroad. Just last month, the Governor unveiled final design renderings for the new main entrance to Penn Station located at 33rd street and 7th Avenue, which will provide much needed direct access to the LIRR Main Concourse and the New York City Subway.
  • $20 Million Investment in Public Libraries: A $20 million capital appropriation to public libraries will help libraries across New York State as they continue to transform into 21st century community hubs.
  • $30 Million for Higher Education Capital Matching Grant Program: A $30 million capital appropriation will support the Higher Education Capital Matching Grant Program, which under the Governor’s leadership is enabling independent colleges across the state to make critical investments in their infrastructure and equipment by providing matching capital grants.
  • $25 million Security Investment to Protect Against Hate Crimes: A $25 million capital appropriation is included for security projects at nonpublic schools, community centers, residential camps, and day care facilities at risk of hate crimes because of their ideology, beliefs, or mission.