Gov. Kathy Hochul said her number one goal in office is for New Yorkers to believe in their government again, after she took over as the first woman in the state’s highest office, following former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s resignation due to a barrage of sexual harassment allegations.
“I want people to believe in their government again, it’s important to me that people have faith,” said Hochul during her first press conference as Governor at the State Capitol in Albany Tuesday morning, Aug. 24.
Hochul officially became New York’s 57th Governor and was sworn into office one minute after midnight Tuesday after Cuomo handed in his letter of resignation Monday night, and the freshly-minted leader said she’s prepared for the manifold challenges of bringing the Empire State back from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is an emotional moment for me, but it’s one that I’m prepared for,” Hochul said.
After a symbolic second swearing-in Tuesday morning, she said she was focused on combatting COVID-19, getting direct aid to New Yorkers more quickly and “changing the culture of Albany.
“I’m looking forward to a fresh collaborative approach,” she told reporters. “That’s how I’ve always conducted myself, it’ll be nothing new for me, but it’s something I’m planning on introducing to the State Capitol.”
When asked about holding Cuomo accountable for the sexual misconduct allegations by 11 women, revealed by State Attorney General Letitia James’s bombshell report, along with ethics investigations into his $5 million COVID book deal and miscounting the death toll in nursing homes, Hochul said she will leave that up to the Legislature, which dropped its impeachment probe but still plans issue a report of its findings.
“I’m going to leave that in the hands of the Assembly,” said Hochul. “They’ve been conducting themselves with great professionalism and I’m going to allow the continuation of the separation of branches of government and allow them to do their work.”
One of the new chief executive’s top priorities is getting federal rent relief to tenants faster, after the state was slow to deliver the funds as New York’s eviction moratorium is set to expire at the end of August.
“I will be assembling a team of individuals, beginning today, to assess this, but to wait not one second longer in terms of how we get this relief out to people,” she said. “It’s there, it needs to be in their hands so they can start getting their lives back in order and reducing some of the incredible stress that these families and individuals are under, it’s absolutely unnecessary.”
She added that she will get money for workers who lost income during the pandemic but weren’t eligible to existing governmental relief, known as the Excluded Workers Fund program “with the same intensity” as rental assistance.
“They’re hurting and they’re part of the New York family and I’m going to make that very clear,” so Hochul.
The Buffalo-native promised to work better with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio than her predecessor, who frequently sparred with de Blasio and undercut efforts to shut down the city early on in the pandemic in spring of 2020.
“There will be no blindsiding, there’ll be just full cooperation, because I need his best and brightest integrated with my best and brightest, and that’s how we’ll get through this,” said Hochul.
She noted that Mayor Bill de Blasio had alerted her prior to his announcement Monday about mandating vaccines for Department of Education teachers, which she said showed a new “era of cooperation.”
For his part, de Blasio was optimistic about the new governor, and was happy to leave the turbulent Cuomo administration behind him.
“I am happy that we have a new governor, we needed one,” he said at his daily press briefing shortly after Hochul’s public appearance ended. “I’m glad we are ending that chapter and it’s a very sad chapter, and, you know, there could have been so much good and instead we see the corrupting influence of power.”
This story first appeared on amNY.com.