Gov. Kathy Hochul pushed back Saturday against political opponents who say she is not doing enough to confront an ongoing surge of violent crime as she pursues a full term in office this year.
“We got a lot done. I don’t expect you to hear about that from my opponents because they don’t like the fact that we were successful,” Hochul told The Post in an exclusive interview.
“I got a lot done already,” she insisted when asked a second time whether she wanted to do more on the anti-crime front before state lawmakers leave Albany for the year on June 2.
A combination of lax judges and criminal justice reforms have allowed some high-profile criminal defendants to walk free in recent weeks while awaiting trial — despite changes made to bail reform in the state budget that passed in April.
This includes four suspects released in March hours after their firearm-related arrests. A judge also released an accused serial thief with at least 32 prior arrests for alleged burglary and other offenses though a prosecutor had requested that bail be set.
Cases like that have evidently not shaken Hochul from her belief that she struck a good balance between public safety and making the judicial system fairer for poor defendants.
“We have changed the whole system, [and] we continue to make sure that people who are accused of the same offense, same low-level offense are not treated differently based on what they can pay.
“That’s the fundamental premise behind bail reform, which I still believe, but also, there were many crimes, violent crimes that were left out. And now we have more factors for judges to consider. We have the ability [to jail] repeat offenders, even hate crimes being covered. So we got a lot done,” Hochul reiterated.
The record-high $220 billion state budget included provisions making additional types of gun offenses and hate crimes eligible for cash bail while loosening rules on how people can be jailed if they have been accused of multiple offenses.
But the governor has faced criticism in recent days from her Democratic gubernatorial rival Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Long Island), who called on her to push for additional changes that would allow judges to jail criminal defendants, who are assumed to be innocent until proven guilty, pretrial based on their purported dangerousness to public safety.
“This should be priority No. 1,” Suozzi told reporters earlier this week.
Mayor Eric Adams has also criticized the changes as falling short of what he says is needed to battle an ongoing increase in violent crimes.
Hochul’s comments on Saturday followed a commencement address at the University at Albany where she made her first public appearance since announcing she had contracted COVID-19 last Sunday.
“You have the gift of an education. A lot of people don’t,” Hochul told graduates while urging them to make a difference on issues like LGBTQ rights, climate change and abortion.
Mayoral control of New York City schools and a controversial tax break for affordable housing development called 421a will expire next month unless the Democratic-controlled Assembly and state Senate passes legislation extending them.
“I certainly think there’s probably conversations around three [years],” the governor said when asked where things stand on mayoral control after a gubernatorial-backed four-year extension failed to pass in the budget.
Some legislators are reportedly pushing to loosen mayoral dominance over the school system by changing the makeup of the Panel for Educational Policy as a condition for extending mayoral control.
“I believe that the mayor should have the ability to control a very complicated system of education, it’s critical for the families, it’s crucial for the kids,” the governor added Saturday.
Hochul also told The Post that she has not been in communication “lately” with Adams regarding a possible extension of the controversial 421a tax break for affordable housing developments, which expires this June.
The mayor is scheduled to travel to Albany on Tuesday to presumably press Albany Democrats on legislative priorities, including extending mayoral control of city schools, state authorization for speed cameras in the city and making sure some type of tax break for affordable housing developers survives the legislative session.
Hochul declined to definitely say whether an extension of the 421a tax break would happen as she gets ready to huddle with legislative leaders this week weeks after a proposed replacement dubbed 485 was blocked by Democratic legislators.
“I’m not saying yes or no. There’s a lot of questions about it. We had our 485 plan in the budget so you know we believe that there should be some form of support to ensure that we continue affordable housing,” Hochul said.