Good morning. It’s Thursday. We’ll look at the policy proposals Gov. Kathy Hochul outlined in her State of the State message. We’ll also look at whether there is friction between Mayor Eric Adams and the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg.
It was Gov. Kathy Hochul’s first big policy statement and also her first big performance on the political stage. She used the moment to promise a new chapter of government in Albany — government that was ethical and functional.
Hochul outlined her vision for guiding the state out of the coronavirus pandemic. She announced a $10 billion commitment to rebuild the state’s decimated health care work force. She called for a “jails-to-jobs” program and tax cuts for the middle class. And, promising to position New York as the most “business-friendly and worker-friendly state in the nation,” she called for measures to help small business owners and bring in new investments.
Hochul, New York’s first female governor, wore suffragist white for her first State of the State address and sounded an aspirational thesis: “New York is not just a place, like other states — it is also an ideal,” she said, “one that embodies, excitement, energy and endless possibilities.”
But the state she presides over faces big challenges: More than 300,000 New Yorkers moved away last year, the biggest population drain of any state. And New York City’s 9.4 percent unemployment rate is more than double the national average.
Politically, Hochul faces a contested primary in June after her unexpected ascension to the state’s highest job following former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s abrupt resignation last summer. My colleagues Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Grace Ashford write that she sought to balance competing political demands in her speech. She is looking to win over left-leaning voters in the primary in June without opening herself to Republican attacks in the general election five months later.
As for the government, she positioned herself as a reformer. She proposed term limits for governors, a measure that could curb her own power and was seen as a not-so-subtle rebuke of her once-powerful predecessor, though she did not mention him by name. Cuomo was in his third term when he resigned.
“For government to work, those of us in power cannot continue to cling to it,” she said.
In another contrast with Cuomo, she promised a collaborative relationship with lawmakers and Mayor Eric Adams, who took office on New Year’s Day. Cuomo spent much of his tenure feuding with former Mayor Bill de Blasio.
She also called for an “interborough express” transit link between Queens and Brooklyn, an idea that transit advocates applauded. But she did not address the challenge facing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state-run agency that operates the city’s subways and buses. Federal aid has allowed the M.T.A. to balance its budget this year, but it faces huge deficits in the future.
A mostly sunny day will be accompanied by temps in the mid-30s. The evening will turn cloudy with temps in the 20s and a chance of late-night snow.
Suspended today (Three Kings Day).
For the new mayor and the new district attorney, coexistence or conflict?
Two Metro stories point to possible friction between Mayor Eric Adams and the new Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg.
One story asks whether Adams can rebuild, and rein in, the Police Department’s plainclothes anti-crime units that were responsible for a disproportionate number of fatal shootings by police officers. The other says that Bragg has told his prosecutors not to press for prison sentences for any but the most serious crimes — including murder, sexual assault and major economic infractions — unless doing so is required by law.
The two officials, on the job for less than a week, were fulfilling campaign promises.
Adams promised that he would tackle the jump in gun violence that began early in the pandemic by reinstating police anti-crime units. Such units played a big role in searches of young Black and Latino men during the stop-and-frisk era. The Police Department disbanded them in 2020, saying they were holdovers from an outdated model of policing.
Progressive groups have criticized Adams’s plan, which would reconstitute them as a single “anti-gun unit” with body cameras, targeting illegal firearms and gang activity. “I know how to do it right because I fought against what was being done wrong.” Adams said last week.
Bragg wants to balance keeping the public safe with reducing the harm that the criminal justice system can do to defendants. But a memo he released this week has left the 500 or so prosecutors who work for him wondering about the effects on their cases. And the policies Bragg outlined in the memo may turn out to be problematic politically if homicides and shootings do not drop.
The changes Bragg ordered had been expected, and on Wednesday, Adams gave no indication that he was upset that Bragg was going ahead with them. Adams said on “CBS Mornings” that he respected Bragg, calling him “a great prosecutor.”
The latest New York news
An auction of Mandela items is postponed
A Manhattan auction house has postponed a sale of items including a shirt worn by Nelson Mandela, above, and a key to a cell in the prison where he was jailed for 18 years for his opposition to apartheid.
The auction house, Guernsey’s, postponed the sale after a two-hour videoconference with officials from the South African Heritage Resources Agency. Arlan Ettinger, the president of Guernsey’s, said the officials requested the delay, saying they needed to determine whether the objects in the auction were heritage items that had been sent from South Africa without permission.
Ettinger said he had been unaware that such clearance was necessary; officials from the heritage agency did not respond to emails on Wednesday. Ettinger said the shirt — one of many that Mandela wore with dress slacks — was sent by Mandela’s daughter Makaziwe Mandela and a granddaughter, Tukwini.
That shirt and a number of others were displayed at the museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan in October as a prelude to the sale, which Ettinger said had been planned to raise money for a 24-acre memorial garden in Mandela’s hometown, Qunu. Ettinger said Makaziwe Mandela had also sent paintings by Mandela to be auctioned, as well as a blanket given him by former President Barack Obama.
Ettinger said the key to the cell at the notorious Robben Island prison was added to the auction after the sale was announced in the fall. He said it was consigned by a former guard there, Christo Brand, who Ettinger said had remained friendly with Mandela after Mandela was freed. Ettinger said Makaziwe Mandela had given her assent to the sale of the key along with several other items from Brand.
Nathi Mtethwa, South Africa’s minister of sport, arts and culture, issued a statement last month saying it was “unfathomable” for Guernsey’s to auction the key without consulting his country’s government, the heritage resources agency or the Robben Island Museum.
Ettinger said on Wednesday that he was “disappointed” at having to postpone the sale.
What we’re reading
A friend of mine from Wisconsin came to visit. We promised to give her the true “Big Apple experience” because she had never been to New York City before.
First, we took the Staten Island Ferry so she could see the skyline in all its glory. Then it was onto the subway to begin the rest of our carefully chosen itinerary.
As we took our seats in the subway car, my friend sat down next to a young man. Maybe 10 seconds into the ride, she touched my leg and pointed to his arm.
There, on the sleeve of his obviously brand-new suit jacket, the sewn-on label was still attached. He looked like he was on his way to an interview, my friend suggested.
She tapped the young man’s arm and pointed to the label.
Going somewhere important? she asked. Other passengers were now observing the scene.
Oh, my gosh, he stammered while trying to rip off the label.
No, my friend said, don’t do that.
Another passenger who was sitting nearby reached into her large, I-have-everything-in-here bag, pulled out some small scissors and handed them to my friend.
She looked at the young man for permission and then proceeded to carefully snip the threads to cleanly remove the label.
When he got off at his stop, we wished him good luck.
— Sedra Schiffman
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero, Geordon Wollner, Jonah E. Bromwich, Troy Closson and Olivia Parker contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].
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