Gov. Kathy Hochul’s 2024 State of the State agenda, explained

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By Dan Sears

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s wish list for 2024 includes a major focus on combating retail theft and bolstering mental health care — but not so much on the ongoing influx of migrants arriving in New York City.

Hochul, a Democrat, delivered a 180-page message to the Legislature on Tuesday, laying out her policy agenda for the coming year. She will highlight her various priorities in her State of the State address, which is scheduled to kick off this afternoon at the Capitol in Albany.

According to the written message, the governor’s agenda is centered on two major issues: public safety, including proposals to fight shoplifting and hate crimes; and mental health.

The governor’s proposals also include a scaled-back plan to add new housing around New York — one that would make certain state funding programs available only to municipalities that add new housing units.

But Hochul’s expansive agenda presented to state lawmakers doesn’t include any new information about the state’s plans to assist NYC in its efforts to house migrants, despite ongoing calls from Mayor Eric Adams for more financial assistance the city says it desperately needs to care for the migrant population. Details on that will come next week, Hochul said, during her budgetary speech laying out the intricacies of her proposals and how she plans to fund them.

Here’s a look at some of the key points in Hochul’s agenda for 2024:

An incentive-based approach to housing

Last year, Hochul put forward a plan that would have required municipalities to bolster their housing stock or give up control over certain zoning decisions. The Legislature and a trove of suburban officials weren’t into it.

This year, Hochul is scaling back.

The governor’s new plan embraces a more incentive-based approach. It would require local governments to create a certain amount of new housing if they want to be eligible for certain state funding programs: things like downtown revitalization grants and similar discretionary pools.

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The governor is also embracing a handful of housing-related proposals backed by Mayor Adams:

  • Extending a version of a lucrative, now-expired tax break for NYC housing developers who commit to building a certain percentage of affordable units, previously known as 421-a.
  • Allowing NYC to lift a longstanding cap on the size of residential buildings compared to a building’s lot size, which would permit more housing density.
  • Giving the city the ability to legalize basement apartments and make it easier and cheaper for owners to bring them up to code.

Hochul’s plan does not explicitly mention a housing-related priority for many Democratic lawmakers: “good cause” eviction protections, which would prevent tenants from being evicted from their homes without a bona fide reason and allow tenants to challenge annual rent increases beyond a certain allowable percentage.

Nothing on migrants

Bad news if you, like Adams, were looking to hear more about the state’s plans to deal with the ongoing arrival of thousands of migrants in NYC: The word “migrant” is not mentioned once in Hochul’s 180-page written agenda for 2024.

During her speech, Hochul promised to address issues involving migrant arrivals when she unveils her state budget next week, laying out her fiscal proposals for the state.

Adams has been pushing for more financial assistance from the state and federal governments to help with housing and processing migrants, many of whom are seeking asylum from countries across South America and Africa.

Hochul’s written State of the State agenda doesn’t get into the issue at all. The closest the governor gets is a proposal for new grants, through research universities, to retain immigrant entrepreneurs who launch start-up companies in New York.

The governor has repeatedly touted about $2 billion in financial assistance the state has already made available to NYC for recent arrivals. The support includes building and staffing temporary shelters at Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field and the parking lot of Queens’ Creedmoor Psychiatric Center.

A crackdown on hate crimes and retail theft

Hochul’s public safety agenda focuses mainly on two areas of crime: retail theft and hate crimes.

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In her written message, Hochul says she wants to expand the list of crimes that can be prosecuted as hate crimes, meaning they would carry harsher penalties because the crime was motivated by factors including race, religion, ethnicity or gender.

The proposal, which Hochul says she’ll detail in yet-to-be-introduced legislation, comes as the governor has bolstered funding for hate-crime enforcement amid ongoing tensions related to the Israel-Hamas war. It also comes after the 2022 mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket, where the shooter specifically targeted Black shoppers.

Hochul’s agenda also lays out a plan to battle theft from retail stores, including new teams of law enforcement officials and prosecutors. One team will be focused on “organized retail theft rings,” the governor said; another will focus on smash-and-grab efforts, where a thief breaks a car or store window and quickly takes whatever they can.

Hochul is proposing new laws that would impose penalties for selling stolen goods online, as well as tougher penalties for assaulting retail workers. She also wants to give business owners a tax credit if they bolster their store security.

Mental health: more psych beds and more coordination with police

Hochul is once again making mental health a focal point of her agenda, seeking to build on the $1 billion commitment she made last year.

The governor is continuing her push to avoid emergency room bottlenecks by increasing the number of psychiatric hospital beds available and restoring psych beds taken offline during the COVID-19 pandemic — a goal she has made progress toward over the past year, according to news outlet The City. Hochul is seeking funding to open 100 new inpatient beds in state psychiatric hospitals and 75 new beds in transitional psychiatric housing facilities.

She’s also proposing a boost in Medicaid funding for private mental health providers and bigger penalties for health insurers who fail to provide adequate mental health coverage.

This year, the governor is placing a special emphasis on the intersection of mental health and criminal justice. Hochul is seeking to establish a Law Enforcement and Mental Health Coordination Team so the state can monitor data related to the “relatively small number of individuals known to cycle through shelter, hospitals, jails, and prisons,” and connect people to treatment and housing.

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She also said she wants to train police officers in de-escalation techniques for when they encounter people experiencing a mental health crisis. But she did not mention any effort to remove police from mental health crisis responses, a goal of many mental health advocates.

Grab bag: Second Avenue subway extension, a NYC floating pool and more

Hochul has been methodically teasing some of her proposals ahead of her actual State of the State address, drumming up attention for those that otherwise might have been swallowed up in the actual speech.

On Tuesday, Gothamist reported Hochul is throwing her support behind an eventual westward expansion of the Second Avenue subway. The $8.1 billion project, which is not yet funded and would be years away, would extend the Q train along 125th Street, all the way to Broadway in West Harlem.

Last week, Hochul detailed her plan to bolster New York’s public swimming facilities, including with $12 million in state funding toward a “floating pool” in the East River or Hudson River. The pool is scheduled for testing this summer, with a planned opening in 2025.

The governor also wants to make the state’s paid family leave program available during pregnancy, not just after a baby is born.

This story was updated to include information from the governor’s speech about the migrant crisis. This is a developing story and will likely be updated with more details from the governor’s address.

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