Legalization Of Marijuana, Sports Betting Also On His To-Do List For 2021By Marcia Kramer

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled ambitious plans to jumpstart and reimagine the New York economy in the wake of the pandemic – and it could start in Manhattan’s central  business district.

As CBS2’s political reporter Marcia Kramer reports, Times Square is empty. The lights are out in millions of square feet of office space, and rooms and in tourist hotels are going begging. They’re pandemic problems Gov. Cuomo wants to fix.

“The crisis of growing vacancies in our commercial properties provide an opportunity. We should convert vacant commercial space to support affordable housing, and do it now. Take the negative and make it a positive,” he said.

The governor says in part one of the State of the State speech he will propose legislation to create a five-year period where owners can convert office space and hotels into apartments. But Joseph Strasburg of the Rent Stabilization Association says that while some landlords will jump at the chance to repurpose their buildings, they will also want tax abatements.

Watch: Gov. Andrew Cuomo Delivers State Of The State Address

“That’s going to be part of the political fighting that’s going to occur in Albany, as to how much abatement and how many years. And it will be important that there be serious oversight to make sure that the city and state… get what they’re paying for,” Strasburg said.

The governor also wants to establish a rapid testing network to help businesses reopen. And he’s looking at the success of opening the Bills’ stadium to fans last weekend as a test case for opening up other large venues – including Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.

“We must begin increasing economic activity and using science to do it, making COVID testing and vaccinations available, so we can reopen restaurants and theaters in art spaces and commercial businesses,” Cuomo said.

The governor also called for:

  • More rent and mortgage relief for tenants and small businesses
  • Strengthening election laws
  • Telehealth legislation
  • Legalizing marijuana
  • Enabling online sports betting

“The future is in our hands. We built the greatest state in the country once before, and we will do it again,” Cuomo said.

The governor asked for federal help in closing the state’s $15 billion deficit, suggesting Washington increase taxes on the wealthy. Details of his own budget will be released at the end of the month.

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Marcia Kramer