CBS2’s Marcia Kramer said she has never seen an elected official face so many tough decision and unanticipated crises in such a short period of time. Not only did Hochul have to jump into Andrew Cuomo‘s shoes after he was driven from office, but she also faced a rent crisis, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority service meltdown, and the ravages of the remnants of Hurricane Ida.
Now, she’s got a partner to shoulder some of the burden.
“Extraordinary times call for extraordinary leadership,” Hochul said Thursday.
Hochul issued those words as former Harlem state Sen. Benjamin was formally sworn in as lieutenant governor at a time when her administration has to deal with the COVID-19 Delta variant, getting students back into classrooms safely, and restarting the economy, not to mention climate change and response to damaging weather events like Ida.
“We have a lot on our plate. We also want to make sure that we continue to restore trust in government, let people know that we believe that integrity is everything,” Hochul said.
Although she offered no specifics, the governor admitted she also has to find some meaningful way to deal with the gun violence that is decimating New York City and other areas of the state.
“We have to continue the fight to ensure that, yes, we have safe streets, that we respect the individuals who wear a uniform who will protect us, but also understand there has to be accountability,” Hochul said.
Kramer questioned the new lieutenant governor, who as a state senator wrestled with criminal justice legislation, about avenues for change.
“Do you think it would involve things that the Legislature would have to deal with in terms of maybe changing bail reform in terms of changing support for police?” Kramer asked.
“My understanding from the governor is that we will look at everything and that, to me, is the right way to address the issue. Justice and accountability, these are the themes that we will continue to guide with,” Benjamin said.
Benjamin, 44, who as lieutenant governor also presides over the Senate, will have a robust portfolio. The governor has asked him to be part of COVID response, convincing reluctant New Yorkers to get vaccinated.
She also wants him to concentrate on speeding up the distribution of the $2.7 billion in federal funds, allowing tenants to pay back rent, and he will head a-yet-to-be-named NYCHA task force.
“The amount of issues that relates to elevators, repairs, people having to wait over 200 days to get their issues addressed at their homes. We can and must do better as New York state,” Benjamin said.
Meanwhile, former governor Cuomo is facing more trouble. A coalition of good government groups filed a complaint with the state Board of Elections, charging the governor’s decision to use campaign funds to pay a spokesman after he left office is a violation of state law.
But spokesman Rich Azzopardi insisted it’s all above board and permissible because his job is to respond to the governor’s time in office and legal reviews.