Hochul focuses on AI, affordable housing in State of State

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By Dan Sears

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New York could be the AI center of the world, driving innovation and boosting the economy with jobs, research and new small businesses, Gov. Kathy Hochul said in her State of the State speech in Albany on Tuesday, where she also put a focus on affordable housing.

Hochul said the $400 million plan for an AI consortium would be funded by public and private partners, with as much as $275 million from the state and $125 million from seven institutions that include Columbia University, Cornell University, New York University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the State University of New York, the City University of New York, and such private partners asthe Simons Foundation and Tom Secunda, co-founder of Bloomberg LP.

“Just look at what Micron’s historic $100 billion investment is doing for Central New York – we’re bringing in 50,000 jobs and boosting the entire local economy, from high paying tech jobs to construction jobs to the restaurants and small businesses that will flourish as a result,” Hochul said.

In her speech, Hochul revisited affordable housing. The governor last year had pushed hard on a housing plan that eventually failed after it was panned on Long Island and other suburbs for provisions that would have set growth targets and sometimes let the state override local zoning decisions. This year, with the suburbs emerging as must-win areas for congressional Democrats, Hochul is taking a different tack.

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She is proposing a $500 million fund to support the construction of housing on state-owned land and wants to reestablish a program that previously gave developers tax breaks if they agreed to create so-called affordable housing in buildings in New York City. In addition, Hochul is pushing for certain state funding programs to require that local governments prioritize housing growth.

The governor’s plans also include a tax break for developers who turn office buildings into residential units if they agree to include below-market rate housing.

Nearly 1,100 Long Island business leaders got a preview of Hochul’s speech last week at the Long Island Association State of the Region breakfast where the governor spoke about transit-oriented housing, jobs, clean water and more.

“Unless we are willing to build more housing in the right places, our prosperity will be held back because we’ll lose the talent that wants to live here,” she said. “I’m not talking about high rise skyscrapers and crazy buildings where they don’t belong. I’m talking about vacant lots where there’s tumbleweed blowing after hours next to a train station.”

Hochul had addressed the crowd after the audience had heard from Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine and Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, as well as former Rep. Peter King and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer

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“We get short-changed. We shouldn’t be short-changed. We are a tremendous economic engine for this state. We need to get full funding,” said Romaine.

Blakeman, saying that the state should “stay of Long Island,” added that “the state should realize that Long Island is the goose that lays the golden egg.”

On Tuesday, Hochul proposed a law enforcement task force on retail theft and the creation of a state police team focused on organized retail theft rings, along with additional state funding for such programs

The governor also plans to establish a tax credit for small business owners to help offset the cost of certain store security measures, and will propose legislation to increase criminal penalties for assaulting a retail worker.

“As we uphold these commitments, we won’t spend money we don’t have,” Hochul said. “Every state relied upon pandemic funds from Washington that have dried up, and it’s on us, as responsible adults, to make the hard yet necessary decisions to use taxpayer dollars creatively and responsibly.”

The governor did not address how the state would continue to handle a large influx of migrants who have mostly landed in New York City, straining the city’s homeless shelters and financial resources. She said she would expand on her plans next week during a budget proposal. The state has already allocated $1.9 billion in emergency spending related to the surge of migrants, and Hochul has previously committed another round of financial assistance to the city.

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On Tuesday, the governor’s critics began asking where the funding for these and other initiaves will come from. Those details will be included in the governor’s upcoming budget.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 

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