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New York State Governor Kathy Hochul

Nick LaLota, Congressman-elect for New York’s 1st Congressional District made an appearance at Stereo Garden in Patchogue on Election Night. Photo by Raymond Janis

While New Yorkers voted Democrat Kathy Hochul as the first woman elected governor, Republicans scored big in races throughout Suffolk County.

Due to September’s cyberattack, results for local races were delayed on Tuesday night as Suffolk County election workers struggled to upload votes.

After technical problems, election workers delivered voting booth memory cards to Yaphank headquarters for votes to be counted. The first voting results started trickling in by the early morning hours of Nov. 9.

Congressman Lee Zeldin, defeated gubernatorial candidate, made an appearance at Stereo Garden in Patchogue on Election Night. Photo by Raymond Janis

New York State governor

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY1), the Republican Party’s gubernatorial candidate, made a surprise appearance en route to his official viewing party in Manhattan. At the Stereo Garden in Patchogue, Zeldin expressed gratitude for the people of Suffolk County, saying his night would not be complete without first dropping in.

Slowly, the returns began to come in, and the room took on a different tone and tenor as the gubernatorial contest was called for incumbent Hochul. 

With 94% reporting as of press time, Hochul carried the state by a 53-47% margin — unusually tight for a state that Democrats generally take handily. 

“Tonight, you made your voices heard loud and clear, and you made me the first woman ever to be elected to be the governor of the State of New York,” Hochul said in her victory speech. “But I’m not here to make history. I’m here to make a difference.”

Zeldin conceded the afternoon of Nov. 9 in a statement.

“This race was a once-in-a-generation campaign, with a very close margin in the bluest of blue states,” Zeldin said. “The unrelenting passion and hard work of our grassroots volunteers and supporters made this incredibly close race possible and helped us win at least 49 of New York’s 62 counties.” He added, “Republicans, Democrats and Independents united as New Yorkers, pouring their heart and soul into this campaign.” 

Congress

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was declared the victor early on Nov. 8, receiving 56% of the votes as of press time.

Despite this and a lackluster Republican performance nationwide, some at Stereo Garden did have cause to celebrate. In the race to fill Zeldin’s congressional seat, Nick LaLota defeated Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac) by a 56-44% margin with 94% reporting.

“Thank you to the voters of Suffolk County for placing your trust in me,” LaLota said in a statement. “I am extremely thankful for the trust and confidence you have placed in me, and I won’t let you down.”

State Assemblyman Keith Brown (R-Northport) was among the incumbents who retain his seat. Photo by Raymond Janis

State Legislature

At the state level, incumbent state Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) defeated Democratic Party challenger Skyler Johnson by 12 points. “This is a team effort, as you all know, and we don’t get here without the hard work of all of our volunteers,” Palumbo said in a speech.

Johnson said he wouldn’t make any promises about whether to run for another office. However, he hasn’t ruled it out, either.

“If I think that we have a viable path, and I think that what I can offer is what the constituents need, then ‘yes,’” he said.

State Sen. Mario Mattera (R-St. James) faced Democrat Susan Berland, formerly Suffolk County legislator in the 16th District and Town of Huntington councilwoman, for the seat in the 2nd District.

The incumbent retained his seat with more than 58% of the votes. Mattera said it felt great to hear the results of his race the morning of Nov. 9, even though he was disappointed that Zeldin lost the gubernatorial race.

“One party rule is upsetting to me because it’s like a business having a monopoly,” Mattera said.

The state senator said he is looking forward to returning to Albany to continue working toward bringing funds back to the area to help with infrastructure and local businesses. He added he was appreciative of the overwhelming support from his family, friends, law enforcement and trade unions, and the confidence they all have had in him.

In the state Assembly, incumbent Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead), who represents the 2nd District, easily won her race by a 32% margin over Democratic challenger Wendy Hamberger.

As of early afternoon Nov. 9, the race for Assembly District 4 was tight, with a mere 973 votes dividing the candidates. Incumbent state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) is in a competitive bout with Republican challenger Edward Flood. Flood maintains a 2-point lead with 96% of the precincts reporting as of press time, though that race has not been called.

Englebright said his last race in 2020 was a close one, too, and he was not ready to make an official statement as of press time.

In the state Assembly District 8 race, incumbent Michael Fitzpatrick received more than 68% of the votes. His opponent, Democrat Jeanine Aponte, did not run an active campaign.

In addition to parts of Suffolk County, state Assembly District 10 also takes in parts of Nassau County. Incumbent Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) was the winner with 54% of the votes (25,879), while IT professional Aamir Sultan (R) received 46% (21,843).

In the state Assembly race in the 12th District, incumbent Keith Brown (R-Northport), faced Democrat Cooper Macco.

Brown retained his seat with 58% of the votes. Macco said he would consider running for office in the future.

“It was a learning experience,” he said. “I think that in the future, hopefully, I can take what I’ve learned” and apply it to a campaign.

County Comptroller John Kennedy (R) was among the speakers at Stereo Garden on Election Night. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Suffolk County

After losing a June primary, current Suffolk County Clerk Judith Pascale (R) did not run for the position. 

Republican Vincent Puleo, the town clerk of Smithtown, faced Democrat Lisa Jimenez, a newcomer running for political office. Puleo won the race with 59% of the votes. 

Incumbent county Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr. (R) won reelection with ease at 60% over his inactive Democratic Party challenger, Thomas Dolan. During a speech at Stereo Garden, he thanked those who helped him secure victory and expressed his vision for the future.

“We left nothing untouched, ladies and gentlemen,” the comptroller said. “We will have change in Suffolk County, and we will restore Republican values, I’m confident.”

Propositions

The $4.2 billion state Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022 was approved by about 59% of voters (93.64% precincts reporting).

The Suffolk County term limits proposition, to 12 years total, passed with a massive 86% approval. 

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Governor Kathy Hochul. Facebook photo

On March 31, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that nearly 70 million COVID-19 over-the-counter tests have been distributed by the State so far as part of ongoing efforts to protect New Yorkers during the pandemic.

“As we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, test kits are a critical tool in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19 and prevent exposure to others,” Governor Hochul said. “We have already distributed nearly 70 million COVID-19 tests, and we will continue to focus our efforts on distributing at-home tests to New Yorkers and build up our stockpile so we can bolster our preparedness for the future, keep our communities safe, and safely move forward through this pandemic.”

As more New Yorkers utilize at-home tests over on-site testing, the State is scaling down its testing sites. The State has retained contracts to swiftly re-open testing sites through June if needed. Nearly 100,000 tests have been conducted at state testing sites since January 7. There are 1,910 registered locations to obtain a test in New York State, locations can be found here. All 15 of the State’s vaccine sites remain open and New Yorkers over the age of 50 are encouraged to get a second booster in accordance with the recently expanded CDC guidance.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said, “The distribution of at-home COVID-19 tests is a critical tool helping to curb spread in our communities. I thank Governor Hochul and our partners at the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services for distributing millions of rapid test kits statewide, particularly to high risk communities. New research released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reminds us that we must continue to center equity across all of our pandemic response efforts. In getting tests to nursing homes, senior centers, food banks, and NYC Housing Authority tenants, and in keeping our state-run mass vaccination sites open to all, that’s exactly what New York State is doing.”

Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray said, “COVID is still a very real threat and it’s critical we remain vigilant in our work to protect communities. Thanks to Governor Hochul’sleadership, New York has expanded our testing distribution operation to a scale few might have thought possible just a year ago, but we cannot rest on this accomplishment alone. As we move forward into the spring, we will continue to support our local partners however we can to ensure New Yorkers have the tools to stay safe and healthy.”

Since the beginning of the year, 68,890,256 million tests have been distributed throughout New York, including over 33 million tests to schools, 19.5 million tests to nursing homes and adult-care facilities, and more than 12.5 million tests to local officials, including counties, for public distribution in their respective communities. The distribution efforts follow the procurement of more than 90 million rapid tests in recent months.

Earlier this month, Governor Hochul announced that more than 20 million COVID-19 over-the-counter tests will be distributed across the state through the Spring to bolster New York State’s ongoing preparedness efforts.

The Spring plan includes distributions of over-the-counter test kits to nursing homes, adult care facilities, NYC Housing Authority tenants, food banks, senior centers, and schools, while also partnering with elected officials for distribution to the public, during the next few months to help identify new COVID-19 cases and keep New Yorkers safe.

Ahead of the Omicron surge in late 2021, Governor Hochul and her team identified the need to secure over-the-counter test kits to combat the Omicron surge, providing regular distributions to the general public, prioritizing schools and adult care facilities across the state.

Of the over 90 million tests procured, nearly 23 million tests have been stored to help prepare for any potential surges later this year.

Gov. Kathy Hochul. File photo by Julianne Mosher

Local elected officials are joining forces to tell Albany that their towns and villages will not lose zoning control.

During her State of the State address, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) spoke of creating more affordable housing options. When the 2022 State of the State book was released, the proposed plan, found on pages 130 through 131, stated that it would require all towns and villages in New York state to allow accessory apartments, which in turn would effectively eliminate single-family zoning laws.

The proposed plan spurred Town of Brookhaven officials to call a press conference Feb. 3, while others have spoken out via statements. The proposed legislation would require municipalities to allow one accessory dwelling unit using backyard cottages, attics, garages and basements. The plan is one that the State of the State describes as providing “an affordable multigenerational housing option that helps families live closer together.”

While local municipalities would still have a say in minimum and maximum size requirements, local zoning authorities would not be able to prevent reasonable new construction, the governor said.

Huntington 

In the Town of Huntington, accessory apartments may be allowed when someone listed on the deed resides at the dwelling. The living space cannot be less than 300 square feet or more than 650 square feet and must have two bedrooms or less. The accessory apartment must be attached to the home.

Supervisor Ed Smyth (R) is against Hochul’s plan.

“This is an election year overreach by the governor that no one in their right mind should support,” Smyth said. “It has bipartisan opposition at all levels of government for good reason: It would eliminate local control of development and hand it off to extremists in Albany.”

At press time, Huntington announced they would be part of a county press conference on Feb. 10 to comment further on the issue.

Smithtown

In the Town of Smithtown legal accessory apartments with a valid mother/daughter permit from the Building Department are the only ones permitted with limited exceptions including older two-family homes that were grandfathered in. Rules differ in the town’s villages.

Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said in a statement he fears stripping local zoning control “would only result in a mass exodus.”

“The harsh reality is that Long Island, especially Suffolk County, lacks the modern infrastructure to handle the population increase which this proposal would create,” the supervisor said. “The environmental impacts alone should terrify every Long Islander. We have outdated wastewater systems underground, roads in major need of repair, archaic stormwater infrastructure and in the near future will have nowhere to put our trash. These are the issues that require resolution from the state, not removing local zoning control. This proposal will create a strain on the school system, increased property taxes, amplify traffic and burden local resources which are already stressed. Furthermore, people move out to the suburbs because the perception of the American Dream is still that quaint neighborhood home, picket fence and all, where they can raise a family. As public servants, it’s our duty to preserve and protect that dream.”

In Head of the Harbor, Mayor Doug Dahlgard echoed the sentiments.

“Taking away local zoning control with a broad brush is not acceptable and will be met by opposition claiming the character of our communities will change for the worse,” the mayor said. “Starting a conversation about how to allow generations of a family to stay together on Long Island, on the other hand, makes sense.”

Wehrheim agreed that the issue of affordable housing needs to be discussed and would welcome a task force consisting of local, county and state officials using proven studies and incorporating successful methods that could create affordable housing options in appropriate areas such as a downtown business neighborhood near a train station.

Congressmen support local officials

Town officials have received moral support from their congressmen. U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) in a press release criticized Hochul. Suozzi will run in the Democratic primary for governor in June against Hochul

“Governor Hochul’s radical proposal would take away zoning control from municipal governments, erode local government authority and end single-family housing across New York,” Suozzi said. “Hochul’s plan to eliminate home rule is not what we need. I support affordable housing, building up around downtown train stations and helping the homeless. I oppose eliminating home rule and ending single-family housing.”

The presumptive Republican nominee for New York State governor, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) said in a joint statement with Brookhaven officials that Hochul “isn’t focused on real solutions.”

“This blatant attack on suburban communities will end single-family housing as we know it, strip local control away from the New Yorkers who live there, tank the value of their homes, overcrowd their previously quiet streets, and on top of it all, not do anything to solve our affordable housing problem,” Zeldin said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul. File photo by Julianne Mosher

New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) delivered her first State of the State address on Jan. 5. The governor outlined nine key points as part of what she called her New Era for New York plan.

During the address, she said the focus was on rebuilding the state’s health care economy; protecting public safety and addressing gun violence; investing in New York’s people; investing in the state’s communities; making New York’s housing system more affordable, equitable and stable; making the state a national leader in climate action and green jobs; rebuilding New York’s teacher workforce and reimagining higher education; advancing the state’s place as a national equity model; and making critical reforms to restore New Yorkers’ faith in their government.

“As the first woman to present a State of the State address in New York, I want to make it clear I am not just here to make history — I am here to make a difference,” Hochul said. “The time has come for a new American Dream. Today, we start building a better, fairer, more inclusive version that I call the New York Dream. We will create a ‘new era for New York’ by embarking on a bold, far-reaching policy agenda that advances our recovery and restores New Yorkers’ trust in government. And through all of this, I will continue to collaborate with others and deliver results for New Yorkers.”

 Critics

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1), the presumptive Republican candidate in the 2022 governor’s race, posted a rebuttal on YouTube after Hochul’s address. Zeldin criticized “the Cuomo-Hochul administration” for “punishing taxes and a skyrocketing cost of living, out-of-control crime, suffocating attacks on our freedom and unending scandals” that he said “have resulted in New York leading the nation in residents fleeing.”

“Unfortunately, our current governor, Kathy Hochul, and one-party rule in Albany have continued the attacks on your wallets, safety, freedoms and kids’ education,” the congressman said.

Zeldin also asked why Hochul didn’t provide details about her plan to tackle rising crime. He criticized her talk about term limits that he said “were far behind the curve” and said she was following where the “political winds blow.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) posted remarks to YouTube before the address. Suozzi is set to run in the Democratic primaries for governor against Hochul. In the beginning of the video, he said, “The state of our state is dismal.”

In a statement after the address, Suozzi said, “The governor today said she wanted a ‘new era for New York,’ yet she ducked fixing the bail crisis that is helping fuel crime, failed to fix the chaos due to her lack of a COVID plan, and won’t stop the pay-to-play mess that corrupts Albany. New York needs a common sense governor who has executive experience to manage COVID, take on crime, reduce taxes and help troubled schools.”

New York State Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) sent out a statement after Hochul’s address also criticizing the governor.

“New York must move forward with a plan of recovery from COVID-19,” Fitzpatrick said. “Gov. Hochul has been reluctant to make progress on this issue, despite broad access to vaccines for those who want it. New York must find a way to begin living with the ongoing reality of this virus without hampering the livelihoods of residents, the education of children and the overall health of our economy. Residents are counting on our leadership to forge a path forward.”

State Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) issued a statement in response to the State of the State address. The senator complimented Hochul for the “welcomed change from the PowerPoint slides and oversized podiums of the previous administration. Her speech and its location were clearly meant to show a break from the past and a new leadership approach to meet New York’s myriad challenges.”

However, Palumbo said he was concerned that few of the positive proposals in the address “will create the systemic change needed to meet today’s challenges faced by my constituents in the 1st Senate District.”

“The hard fact is New York state continues to lead the nation in outmigration,” he said. “The cost of homes and property taxes in our region continue to rise. State and fuel taxes are up. The crime rate continues to grow and families I represent do not feel safe. Our electric rates are some of the highest in the country. The economy has been further crippled by the pandemic, and our hospitals and nursing homes are struggling. With record levels of state and federal spending, our region of the state is simply not seeing its fair share of funding allowing our economy to recover.”

Palumbo challenged Hochul and legislative majorities to revisit policies he called “unworkable and detrimental.”

Some highlights from the State of the State address:

Health care over the course of five years

  • Grow health care workforce by 20%
  • $10 billion invested in the sector
  • $4 billion of $10 billion to be used for wages and bonuses of health care workers

Preventing and reducing gun violence and violent crimes

  • Provide state and local law enforcement with tools necessary to keep residents safe from gun violence
  • Invest in public safety and fund state and local policing gun safety efforts
  • Create an interstate Gun Tracing Consortium
  • Invest in community-based gun violence response

Invest in residents

  • Accelerate the phase-in of $1.2 billion in middle-class tax cuts for 6 million New Yorkers by two years to 2023
  • Establish a $1 billion property tax rebate program
  • Tax rebate for 2 million New York families
  • Increase existing tax credits and create new ones to support food production
  • $100 million in tax relief for 195,000 small businesses across New York state

Develop job opportunities

  • Create the Office of Workforce and Economic Development and Jails to Jobs program

Boost investment in offshore wind infrastructure by $500 million

Limit governors,  lieutenant governors, attorney generals and comptrollers to two consecutive four-year terms.

Gov. Kathy Hochul. File photo by Julianne Mosher
State of Emergency to Trigger Use of Surge and Flex System and Expand Purchasing Ability
Department of Health Will Be Permitted to Limit Non-Essential, Non-Urgent Scheduled Hospital Procedures If Necessary to Ensure Capacity
New Omicron Variant Not Detected in New York State Yet, but Hochul Warns: ‘It’s Coming’

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul today announced urgent action to boost hospital capacity and address staffing shortages ahead of potential spikes in COVID-19 cases this upcoming winter. Through an Executive Order signed by Governor Hochul, the Department of Health will be allowed to limit non-essential, non-urgent procedures for in-hospitals or systems with limited capacity to protect access to critical health care services. Limited capacity is defined as below 10% staffed bed capacity, or as determined by the Department of Health based on regional and health care utilization factors.

The new protocols will begin on Friday, December 3, and will be re-assessed based on the latest COVID-19 data on January 15. The Executive Order will also enable New York State to acquire more quickly any critical supplies to combat the pandemic.

“We’ve taken extraordinary action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and combat this pandemic. However, we continue to see warning signs of spikes this upcoming winter, and while the new Omicron variant has yet to be detected in New York State, it’s coming,” Governor Hochul said. “In preparation, I am announcing urgent steps today to expand hospital capacity and help ensure our hospital systems can tackle any challenges posed by the pandemic as we head into the winter months. The vaccine remains one of our greatest weapons in fighting the pandemic, and I encourage every New Yorker to get vaccinated, and get the booster if you’re fully vaccinated.”

The Hochul Administration continues to take comprehensive steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including mask protocols in health care and P-12 school settings, correctional facilities and detentions centers, public transportation and at transportation hubs, and implementation of the HERO Act which requires all employers to implement workplace safety plans in response to COVID-19.

The Administration continues to focus on boosting vaccination rates among New Yorkers, including bolstering the State’s network of vaccine access points, and working to expand testing supplies. That also includes acting on our comprehensive plan to vaccinate school-aged children 5-17, provide incentive programs, combat vaccine misinformation campaigns, increase vaccine awareness, deploy pop-up vaccines in targeted low-vaccination areas, and implement vaccine requirements for health care workers. On August 24, the vaccination rate among adults with one dose was 78.8%. Today, it is 90.2%.

Further, the Administration continues to ramp up booster shots and urges all New Yorkers to get the booster dose once fully vaccinated. As of November 24, over 2.2 million boosters and/or additional doses have been administered. Nearly 4,500 locations across are administering booster shots.

The Administration will continue to partner with local leaders to make vaccines, boosters and testing more widely available.