2016-03-23 / Front Page

QCC Welcomes Lieutenant Governor Hochul

By Thomas Cogan

Late last week, New York state Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul came to an afternoon meeting of the Queens Chamber of Commerce’s legislative committee.  She spoke to an audience at the Bulova Center that included former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman.  She talked about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s programs for economic improvement, especially upstate, which is native territory for her, since she’s from Buffalo.  With great enthusiasm, she painted a bright picture, contrasting the economic comeback she has seen and foresees with the severe economic and social decline she grew up seeing.  In Queens, she said she found model examples of such improvement. 

She has to travel the state constantly, a duty she admits is grueling and which led to the resignation of her predecessor before Governor Cuomo ran for a second term.  Since it’s Women’s History Month and the day’s topic was women in the workplace, Hochul had some anecdotes about her work experience as an attorney and an at-home entrepreneur.

Hochul said that Governor Cuomo lays out a vision of what the state can do.  She evangelizes that vision, being quite devoted to him and willing to travel extensively in his and its behalf.  She said he entered office in 2011 to face a $10 billion deficit and by now has realized a $5 million surplus.  She called him fervently pro-business and said he has demonstrated his commitment to business by lowering taxes, pursuing technology and supporting business incubators.  His message to technology and entrepreneurs:  don’t go to California or anywhere else, stay here and develop.

In 2015, her first year as lieutenant governor, Hochul said, she traveled the equivalent of twice around the world, or 52,000 miles, most of it in the state, where she visited all 62 counties at least once.  In 2014, as Governor Cuomo was about to begin his campaign for reelection, then-Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy announced he was stepping down, being unable to continue such traveling, as the office required, because of a painful back and leg condition.  (In healthier days he was able to run a New York Marathon.)  Hochul was in Washington at the time, as U.S representative of the state’s 26th congressional district.  The governor asked her to replace Duffy as his running mate.  She accepted and was elected with him that November. 

Hochul was born and brought up in Buffalo as one of six children in a family named Courtney.  She told the chamber meeting that she alone of all the children has remained in the Buffalo area and has more recently witnessed the departure of her son from his hometown.  She said she knows what emptying out and decline look like but adds that she believes it is reversing there. 

Her start in political life was as an aide to U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York.  In her brief time in Congress (one term) she was strong on women’s issues.  At the meeting she brought up the issue of pay imbalance between most men and women working comparable jobs.  She said it is estimated that at the rate they’re going, women will achieve pay parity with men in 85 years.  “I can’t wait that long,” she said.  She added that there are only three nations in the developed world with no paid family leave, and the U.S. is one of them.Her own work experience has been educating to her.  After law school, and when her son was an infant, she started a business consultancy out of her home.  She said she set up a desk in the basement and let her son play on a rug between the desk and the washing machine, which allowed her to look after him, the wash and her work simultaneously.  “Women know how to multitask,” she said.  When she worked in the Washington area she was an attorney to a woman who wanted to get into a Pentagon-related business.  Counseling the woman was an experience that showed her beyond her own just what rigors women often have to go through to get into business.  Another woman who wished to go into business was her mother, who wanted to be a florist.  Hochul showed her through the bureaucratic steps and snares and advised her to join her local chamber of commerce.  She did, and became an enthusiastic member.  The lieutenant governor was sure to let the Queens chamber know how much chambers of commerce mean to her.   

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