Gov. Kathy Hochul had a rare opportunity to fix New York’s broken bail laws. Instead, she chose to build a football stadium with a billion dollars in taxpayer money.
She made the wrong choice. And the latest crime statistics show she needs to make a better one, fast.
During last month’s frenetic and secret state-budget negotiations, the governor used the enormous power of her office not to tackle the crime crisis but to ram through a billion-dollar giveaway to her billionaire friend to build a new $1.4 billion Buffalo Bills stadium.
She missed the chance to change the bail laws to allow judges to keep dangerous criminals off our streets.
The budget was late, and she had the attention of the other two of the three “people” in the room (the Senate majority leader and Assembly speaker) who singularly decide the contents of the $220 billion budget. She had the ability to “horse trade” Albany-style and place on the table a non-budget policy issue (crime) and force it into budget negotiations.
But she cared only about the Bills stadium. She added $4 billion to the already-bloated budget, persuading Senate leadership to change its mind and orchestrating the largest taxpayer contribution for a pro-football facility in history.
She merely “tweaked” the failed bail-reform laws to allow for a minuscule number of crimes, a short list of gun-related offenses, to be added to those qualifying for bail.
Serious crimes committed with a knife, baseball bat or any other dangerous instrument will not be affected by her tweaks. Neither will attempted murder, rape, robbery, burglary, grand larceny, drug sale, auto theft or hundreds of other offenses.
We didn’t need to “tweak” the laws — we need to rewrite them.
We need to give judges the power to consider the “dangerousness” of defendants who come before them.
Last week, the April crime stats were released, and there were record increases throughout the state.
In New York City, major crimes were up 34.2% compared with April 2021, fueled by jumps in felony assaults, robberies, burglaries and thefts.
It isn’t just Gotham. Last year, Rochester broke its 30-year-old homicide record. Murders rose 61% in Syracuse and 43% in Buffalo from 2019 to 2021. Crime stats for smaller upstate cities like Troy, Newburgh and Watertown now rank among the highest in the nation for cities their size.
Mayor Eric Adams was elected, in part, on an anti-crime agenda. I endorsed him and continue to support his efforts to combat crime with precision policing, anti-gun units and increased staffing to target illegal activity using real-time intelligence.
As Nassau County executive, directing the 12th-largest police force in the country, I reformed police procedures, instituted smarter deployment of resources and improved technology and equipment.
As governor, I will enact a 15-point action plan to combat the crime crisis, allow judges to keep violent criminals off our streets, remove any district attorney who refuses to enforce the law, stop the flow of illegal guns and expand violence-prevention programs.
I mention that last item because lowering crime requires intervention and prevention. I will implement a revolutionary “No Wrong Door” program, bringing together, on a statewide basis, existing health and human-services programs to proactively help people in crisis.
I’ll bring all federal, state and local programs and nonprofits into New York’s troubled schools to address children’s problems at a young age — before they grow into more serious problems later in life.
A great percentage of Rikers’ inmates have learning disabilities; 80% lack a high-school diploma and 30% read below a fifth-grade level. Bishop Desmond Tutu said it best: “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”
But we need to act now to address the surging violence that’s becoming out of control.
Gov. Hochul has one more chance to address the crime crisis in New York. The 2022 legislative session ends in early June. Lawmakers will be anxious to get home to begin campaigning.
Keep them in Albany and extend the session until the Legislature passes a comprehensive plan to prevent crime and keep violent criminals off our streets.
Do it now, governor, or the people of New York will have to wait until January, when I take over.