ALBANY, N.Y. — When Gov. Kathy Hochul unveiled her policy agenda for New York last week, she appeased unions with her commitment to boost wages, appealed to business leaders with business-friendly rhetoric and threw in crowd-pleasers, such as proposals to fix potholes and allow bars and restaurants to sell to-go drinks.
But her most explicit overtures were directed at one audience: state lawmakers.
Promising a “new era” of collaboration, Ms. Hochul pledged to “share success” and “find common ground” with legislators, declaring that “the days of governors disregarding the rightful role of this Legislature are over.”
Over the coming months, Ms. Hochul, a moderate Democrat, will need to court and cajole state lawmakers to turn her expansive policy aspirations into reality when she negotiates her first state budget with Democrats who control the statehouse.
Many of her core priorities align in principle with those of Democratic leadership, but she will have to contend with an emboldened Legislature that has become increasingly liberal and could pressure her to move in the same direction.
Ms. Hochul is betting that actively engaging lawmakers as governing partners will help her reach consensus, in sharp contrast to the confrontational approach of her predecessor, former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
“It’s not going to be totally chaos-free because it’s a multibillion-dollar budget, so there’s always going to be dissension,” said Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, the Democratic majority leader in the Assembly. “But I believe we will have a smoother budget process.”
Indeed, most Democratic lawmakers appear optimistic about working with Ms. Hochul and minimizing differences, but she will still have to wade through emerging rifts on a number of measures she laid out in her State of the State address last week. That effort could turn into a political minefield as she runs for a full term as governor this year and juggles pressure from her left and right.
Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Democratic majority leader in the State Senate, has already signaled that her members intend to pursue a proposal to expand child care that is more far-reaching than the one Ms. Hochul put forth. “It’s time for us to make universal, affordable child care a reality in our state,” Ms. Stewart-Cousins said in remarks last week.
The details of the child care proposal Senate Democrats will coalesce around remain unclear, but Ms. Hochul’s version — targeting about 100,000 low-income families — appeared to be more restrained than a universal approach.
Carl E. Heastie, the speaker of State Assembly, has also expressed reservations about Ms. Hochul’s proposal to impose term limits on governors. Indeed, his second-in-command, Ms. Peoples-Stokes, said that “term limits will need to be hashed out because, from my perspective, there’s not a lot of tolerance for that.”
That measure would require a constitutional amendment, a lengthy process that requires lawmakers pass the measure in two consecutive legislative sessions before putting it to voters in a referendum.
Ms. Hochul also unveiled a proposal to build more housing by increasing residential density in the suburbs, and a pledge, similar to Mr. Cuomo’s, to build or preserve 100,000 affordable and 10,000 supportive housing units over five years.
But those plans did little to placate the party’s left wing, which has clamored for more sweeping protections for renters, including legislation to make it harder for landlords to evict tenants and raise rents.
“I think it’s good, but I think it’s a low number for a state where we have 20 million people,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos, a Democrat from Queens, who also lamented the governor’s silence on replenishing the excluded workers fund, which provided cash payments to workers who did not receive federal relief during the pandemic. “It’s a much bigger problem.”
Other flash points may soon emerge around efforts to amend the state’s contentious bail law, as well as potential financing for the construction of a stadium for the Buffalo Bills, Ms. Hochul’s hometown football team, with taxpayer money.
The state is negotiating with the Bills and Erie County officials over whether and how much to invest in building a stadium. The outlay, which is expected to be substantial, could rekindle an old debate over whether governments should be in the business of funding professional sports arenas to keep teams from seeking greener pastures.
How the governor intends to finance and implement many of the policies laid out in her address and an accompanying 237-page briefing book will become clearer when Ms. Hochul releases her budget proposal on Tuesday.
She will then have to haggle with the Legislature, which must approve the final state budget, in a monthslong process that is supposed to culminate by April. That will mean reconciling her spending priorities with those of the Legislature in negotiations where governors traditionally have held an upper hand.
“The question is, fundamentally, what will be delivered, what we can afford and how impactful will those programs be,” said Andrew Rein, the president of the Citizens Budget Commission, a fiscal watchdog.
This year, the state’s coffers are overflowing, partly after an influx of federal funding, with state officials now projecting balanced budgets through 2025, a starting negotiating position for Ms. Hochul that Mr. Rein described as “virtually unprecedented.”
It remains to be seen how much Democrats will seek to push Ms. Hochul to the left, especially in a year when state lawmakers and the governor face election tests amid concerns about Republicans making inroads. Still, the party’s most leftward faction has expressed no desire to pull back.
“What the governor could have done with the State of the State is build on the momentum of last year’s historic budget,” said Assemblywoman Phara Souffrant Forrest, a first-term democratic socialist. “This year is an election year, and I know she’s really concerned about gaining the support of Black working-class people, and if she truly wants that then she should join us in fighting for our agenda.”
Yet for all their differences, most Democratic lawmakers appeared to embrace the pillars of Ms. Hochul’s agenda, cheering proposed investments in the health care work force, the expansion of tuition assistance programs and good- government priorities like ethics reform and voting rights.
They welcomed her willingness to take on messy but consequential issues such as rehabilitating the state’s university system and addressing the disruptive cultural and physical legacy of infrastructure projects like the Cross-Bronx Expressway in New York City and the Kensington Expressway in Buffalo.
“There’s a certain amount of political courage that comes from recognizing problems, because once you recognize them you become obligated to fix them,” said State Senator Sean Ryan, a Democrat from Buffalo, who called Ms. Hochul’s vision “a real pragmatic approach.”
Many lawmakers mentioned instances when the governor had called them to consult on a bill or had reached out to offer support when she was in their district — signals, they said, that Ms. Hochul’s vows of collaboration could be more than political rhetoric.
Mr. Cuomo, in contrast, was known to call lawmakers to berate and intimidate them in pursuit of his objectives, fostering alliances that were born from fear, rather than good will.
But even the best working relationships must contend with challenges, and the upcoming session will have its share for the governor.
The increase in violent crime during the pandemic will continue to be an issue for Ms. Hochul, who will have to decide whether or not to revisit legislation from 2019 that abolished cash bail for most crimes. Moderate Democrats like Eric Adams, the New York City mayor, and Representative Thomas Suozzi, who is challenging Ms. Hochul in the primary for governor, have called for changes to the bail law.
Ms. Stewart-Cousins said last week that Senate Democrats have no intention of amending it, raising the specter of a bitter intraparty clash if Ms. Hochul seeks to change the law. Republicans, who support a full repeal, are already using the issue as a cudgel in the governor’s race.
And all the proposals will need to be approved by the Legislature in the state budget — a complex process that is seen as the true test of a governor’s priorities.
“I philosophically believe that government is intended to do good, invest in capital infrastructure. That’s what we’re here for,” said Liz Krueger, a Senate Democrat who leads the Finance Committee. “But I really do need to understand where we’re getting the money to pay for it.”
‘Devastated’: Crowds Throng Funeral Service for 15 Bronx Fire Victims
A line of black hearses began pulling up outside the doors of the Islamic Cultural Center in the Bronx just after 10 a.m. on Sunday. They maneuvered past throngs of distraught mourners who had flocked to the mosque to say a final goodbye to friends, children, parents and cousins killed in a fire that took the lives of 17 members of a close-knit Gambian community.
Indoors, women consoled each other in a second-floor prayer space as the men gathered downstairs. Outside, two tents were filled with families watching the funeral service on a livestream.
Aminata Sillah, 42, had arrived early. She laid a blue prayer rug on the ground in the frigid morning air, tugging anxiously at her boots.
Ms. Sillah’s aunt, Fatoumata Drammeh, was among those who died on Jan. 9 as acrid smoke filled the apartment building on East 181st Street, suffocating people as they tried to flee the 19-story complex. Ms. Drammeh’s three children also died and were among the 15 people being honored during Sunday’s communal funeral service.
“I’m devastated,” Ms. Sillah said. “It’s been a restless week.”
An imam urged people to clear a path as the coffins, draped in black velvet cloth and held aloft by more than two dozen men, were carried inside the mosque.
“It’s just painful,” Haji Dukuray, 60, said before falling silent as a tiny, child-size coffin was placed near where he sat in the front row on a green prayer rug.
“All this innocence, these young kids,” Mr. Dukuray said. “They have no business being here.”
Yahya Sankara, 33, who lost his sister and two nephews, sighed loudly as his eyes began to tear up.
“My heart is done,” Mr. Sankara said. “I have nothing to say.”
New York’s new mayor, Eric Adams; the state’s attorney general, Letitia James; and Senator Chuck Schumer were among the elected leaders who attended the packed funeral service.
The fire, ignited by a space heater, was the city’s deadliest blaze in decades.
The blaze began just before 11 a.m. on a similarly chilly Sunday morning a week ago. Eight children were among the dead.
As the service started, the imam, Sankung Jeitteh, said he was struggling to control his emotions as he listed the names of families — Dukuray, Drammeh, Jambang, Konteh, Tunkara, Toure — decimated by the blaze.
“When the Lord asks for something, we have no choice but to agree,” he said, adding, “I’m trying to control myself.”
Family members started to quietly sob.
New York Governor Offers Hopeful Sign as Daily Cases Fall by 47%
Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, warned on Sunday that the Omicron surge of coronavirus cases had not yet peaked nationally, saying that the next few weeks would be very difficult in many parts of the country as hospitalizations and deaths rise.
But “the challenge is that the entire country is not moving at the same pace,” he said, adding “we shouldn’t expect a national peak in the coming days.”
“The next few weeks will be tough,” he said.
The highly contagious Omicron variant has fueled an explosive surge of known cases, with an average of more than 800,000 new cases a day reported on Saturday, according to a New York Times database.
Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, also expressed concerns that the next several weeks would overwhelm hospitals and staff. “Right now we’re at about 150,000 people in the hospital with Covid,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “That’s more than we’ve ever had. I expect those numbers to get substantially higher.”
About this data
Sources: State and local health agencies (cases, deaths); U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (hospitalizations).
In addition, Omicron has brought into sharp relief the longstanding lack of adequate testing supplies, with consumers now depleting pharmacies of costly rapid tests — a boxed set of two tests ranges from $14 to $24 — and creating long lines at testing sites.
The federal government has promised to distribute one billion rapid at-home coronavirus tests to Americans, limiting each household to request four free tests. And new federal rules require private insurers to cover up to eight at-home tests per member a month.
But with the test orders and reimbursement processes hampered by delays, Americans will likely not have tests in hand for weeks, which may be too late in some places where demand is high as infections spread.
“We’ve ordered too few testing kits, so our testing capacity has continued to lag behind each wave,” Tom Bossert, the homeland security adviser to President Trump, said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It’s too little and too late, but noteworthy for the next wave.”
While many people infected with Omicron have had no or mild symptoms, others — especially those who were not vaccinated and those with chronic conditions — suffered more serious illnesses that were already overwhelming hospitals in some states late last year.
Dr. Murthy disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision last week that rejected President Biden’s vaccine-or-testing mandate for large employers that would have applied to more than 80 million workers.
“Well, the news about the workplace requirement being blocked was very disappointing,” Dr. Murthy said. “It was a setback for public health. Because what these requirements ultimately are helpful for is not just protecting the community at large; but making our workplaces safer for workers as well as for customers.”
Nearly 63 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, but only 38 percent of those have received a booster shot, which some have argued should be the new definition of full vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not changed the definition of full vaccination, but said recently it considers three doses of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna’s vaccines to be “up-to-date,” as well as Johnson & Johnson’s shots with a second dose, preferably of Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech.
Last week, the C.D.C. finally acknowledged that cloth masks do not offer as much protection as a surgical mask or respirator, which some experts have urged the agency to recommend for the general public.
“Please, please get vaccinated,” Dr. Murthy said on ABC, issuing a reminder that the shots still provide good protection against severe illness. “It’s still not too late.”
Homes That Sold for $520,000 or Less
Each week, our survey of recent residential sales in New York City and the surrounding region focuses on homes that sold around a certain price point, allowing you to compare single-family homes, condos and co-ops in different locales.
The “list price” is the asking price when the property came on the market with the most recent broker. The time on the market is measured from the most recent listing to the closing date of the sale.
BROOKLYN | 1 BEDROOM, 1 BATH
145 72nd Street, No. C6, Bay Ridge
This 700-square-foot postwar co-op has hardwood floors, a southern exposure and an open kitchen with a breakfast bar in a non-doorman elevator building with a live-in superintendent.
20 weeks on the market
$375,000 list price
1% below list price
Costs $643 a month in maintenance
Listing broker Keller Williams
Connecticut | 2 bedrooms, 3 baths
731 North Trail, No. B, Stratford
This 45-year-old, 2,026-square-foot, semidetached condo has an open floor plan, a kitchen with granite counters and island seating and two decks in a complex for those aged 55 and over.
12 weeks on the market
$439,900 list price
Less than 1% above list price
Costs $9,543 a year in taxes; $463 a month in common charges
A 577-square-foot prewar condo with hardwood floors, an eat-in kitchen with granite counters, a bedroom with French doors and a windowed walk-in closet in a non-doorman walk-up building.
31 weeks on the market
$435,000 list price
6% below list price
Costs $5,168 a year in taxes; $405 a month in common charges
Listing broker Triplemint
Long Island | 2 bedrooms, 2½ baths
80 Stanford Court, No. B, Wantagh
This 36-year-old, 1,305-square-foot, townhouse-style condo has a living room with a stone fireplace, two walk-in closets and two decks in a complex with a pool and tennis courts.
17 weeks on the market
$499,000 list price
4% above list price
Costs $13,209 a year in taxes; $350 a month in common charges
Listing broker Douglas Elliman
Westchester | 1 bedroom, 1 bath
4 Martine Avenue, No. 408, White Plains
A 32-year-old, 774-square-foot condo, with hardwood floors, a pass-through kitchen that has granite counters, and a washer and dryer in a high-rise doorman building with a gym, indoor pool and pond.
21 weeks on the market
$389,000 list price
6% below list price
Costs $4,911 a year in taxes; $569 a month in common charges
Listing broker Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty
A 350-square-foot prewar co-op, with a bath, hardwood floors, two closets and a kitchen with stainless-steel appliances (but no dishwasher), in an elevator building with a doorman and gym.
14 weeks on the market
$325,000 list price
17% below list price
Costs $840 a month in maintenance
Listing broker Keller Williams