2017-02-01 / Front Page

Lt. Gov. Hochul Again Addresses QCC

By Thomas Cogan
In late January, New York state’s Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul addressed the Queens Chamber of Commerce at the Bulova Corporate Center for the second straight year (the first time was last March), perhaps establishing an annual practice.  She promised she would speak quickly and did, probably because she had to recite a long list of plans and accomplishments, all of them attributed to Governor Andrew Cuomo.  It was an impressive stream of praise, and her audience at the center’s auditorium was appreciative. 

Hochul, a native of Buffalo, became lieutenant governor by winning a statewide election in 2014.  Earlier (2011-13), she had been U.S. representative from the 26th congressional district, which includes Buffalo.  City Councilman Rory Lancman preceded the lieutenant governor to the speaker’s rostrum to praise her and say it had been an honor to take her recently on a tour of one part of his City Council district, Kew Gardens Hills.  QCC Executive Director Thomas Grech formally introduced her.  

She began her review by citing the state’s $100 billion infrastructure program, for both new projects and repair and renewal of existing roadways and structures.  She said that if there are cutbacks in federal funding, as expected, New York will have to provide its own funding—and that, she said, amounts to the most extensive infrastructure improvement plan in the state’s history.  Projected on a screen were photos of the new Kosciuszko Bridge (“Isn’t that beautiful?” she exclaimed about its tall towers) and the first stations of the new Second Avenue subway.  New subway cars for the system at large were also shown, as were new buses, while talk of refurbishing the Queens-Midtown Tunnel was accompanied by illustrations of what its shiny new tiles would look like. 

She spoke of new lights and also music on bridges, while bridges, tunnels and highways old and new will eventually have cashless toll systems and no toll plazas. Illustrations of the currently unbuilt Moynihan Station were contrasted to the real Pennsylvania Station across Eighth Avenue from it, a place she called “third world,” repeating and recalling former Vice

President Biden’s denunciation of La Guardia Airport.  That only led to descriptions of infrastructure repairs that are proceeding at La Guardia, and also Kennedy Airport. 

She said the state’s unemployment rate of 3.9 percent is better than the national rate and the number of jobs is the highest in its history, saying also that New York’s traditional reputation as a “tax-and-spend” state is no longer valid and  tax rates are “down for every New Yorker.”  What’s more, the state’s bond rating is up.  The new president is demanding we “Buy American” but the governor, Hochul said, has already gone beyond proclamation by seeing to it that the steel, concrete and any other product required to build the Kosciuszko Bridge is entirely American-made.  She called his buy-American mandate the country’s strongest. 

She daringly declared that the city has become the nation’s strongest technology hub.  Other state cities, and another part of this one, are beneficiaries of a statewide downtown development plan that divides the state into regions and picks areas for urban development from each, she said; and downtown Jamaica was chosen in New York city.  Funding for education has increased by one-third in the past three years, she said, with $800 million allotted for pre-kindergarten schooling.  There was a time, and she can remember it, when youth graduating from high school could go from there directly to jobs in factories or retail, “but that era’s over.”  If higher education is now required, how can it be afforded, she asked.  Of course, this was an introduction to the governor’s early January proposal to provide tuition-free education at State University of New York (SUNY) schools to families earning $125,000 or less annually.

She even covered some problems, such as the state’s deplorable standing in voter participation, which is 36th out of 50.  She hoped a current democracy project could educate and enlighten indifferent citizens about the necessity of voting.  Then there’s the business of confining convicted teenaged felons with older, harder criminals, as is the procedure in New York, instead of passing legislation that would raise the age of criminal responsibility, which is another of  Governor Cuomo’s aims.  Some youth “make stupid mistakes” and turn to crime, she said, but that should not condemn them to be locked away with recidivists; rather, they need to be placed among other youth and guided, or constrained, back into society, before they become harder cases to reform. 

The lieutenant governor finished with a flourish of optimism, saying that she grew up in humble circumstances, living in a trailer, and now would like to see those of younger generations advance the way she did.    




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