The Hochul agenda: Top priorities for incoming NY governor include kids back in classrooms, rent relief

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CORONA, Queens — In less than a week, New York will have a new governor in Kathy Hochul and she shared some of her top priorities from a school in Corona, Queens on Wednesday.

The visit came following a meeting with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and other top city leaders.

Hochul wound her way through PS 143 with local leaders, including Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter. The newly renovated building will soon welcome back students who, one year ago, lived in the epicenter of the epicenter of the pandemic.

“Our children need to be back in school,” Hochul said after the tour, where she asked questions about spacing, ventilation, cleaning and masking. “This time away from school, away from their support system, away from the life they used to know, has been debilitating for too many of our children.”

Hochul acknowledged the fear many face right now with the delta variant surging. She has already signaled she believes she has the authority through the State Health Department to require masking in all schools— even without the special pandemic powers Gov. Andrew Cuomo had for much of the last year and a half.

“The local school boards and superintendents are poking to the state for that leadership,” Hochul said.

Aside from the back to school effort, her other top priorities include distributing rent relief and cash for excluded workers— two crucial pandemic recovery programs that floundered as Cuomo was engulfed in scandal.

“There are people out here who are desperate for this money,” Hochul said.

The Buffalo-area native has also spent much of this transition connecting with downstate leaders— having met with de Blasio Tuesday. Across town, during his daily press briefing, the mayor gave Hochul a glowing review, while throwing not so subtle shade at his long time nemesis, Gov. Cuomo.

“It was just a good, healthy sane, emphasis on sane, conversation,” he said.

Upon hearing reports of the mayor’s comment, Hochul quipped: “I am just really honored the mayor called me sane, that’s good.”

Both the mayor and soon-to-be governor say the crux of the conversation was about combating COVID. There was also some dialogue about congestion pricing, where there are differences of opinion about implementing the program and how long it will take.

Hochul has committed to picking a someone from the city as her lieutenant governor, but said it could take about 45 days for her entire team to come together.

“I can tell you right now, all questions will be ultimately answered,” she said. “But I continue doing interviews, listening to people, getting opinions, and putting together the dream team to run the State of New York.”

Finally, Hochul continues to stress that she has had almost no contact with Cuomo, even during this transition period.

She said her office will cooperate fully with anyone investigating the soon-to-be former governor.

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