A leading State Senator and a top City Hall aide say the Empire State and the Big Apple need shots in the arm from the feds—literally and figuratively.
In the past week, three speeches have sketched out the hopes and hurdles that confront New York City and state as it grapples with a virus that has spread death and reshaped life.
Mayor Bill de Blasio outlined a city budget built around a historic collapse in property-tax revenues. Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a state budget tethered to an urgent plea for billions in federal aid. And Joe Biden gave an inaugural address.
The last one was the most significant, but not just because a president is more important than a governor or mayor, and not primarily because of anything specific Biden said.
The mere fact of his becoming president changes the prospects for the city and state to get the help they need from Washington in vaccine supply and financial relief.
“I promise you this: as the Bible says weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning,” the new president said in his inaugural address. “We will get through this, together.”
The new president took the oath of office as New York City was temporarily closing its COVID-19 vaccination sites because of a lack of supply, and a day after Cuomo outlined a doomsday budget of tax hikes and spending cuts if Washington doesn’t come up with $15 billion for New York.
State Sen. Liz Krueger, chair of the Senate’s Finance Committee, and Bill Neidhardt, press secretary for Mayor de Blasio, joined Wednesday’s Max & Murphy Show to discuss the prospects for transforming Biden’s pledge into doses and dollars.
“It’s a pretty stark reality that we’re facing here in New York City,” Neidhardt said. The city (after a slow start) ramped up its vaccination program to get needles in 200,000 arms last week, only to have to halt the project. “What we need frankly from the federal government is for them to step up and get that supply to us, to cities across the country, to states across the country.”
He said he saw reason to hope in the early signals from Biden. “They’ve already said they’re going to be retooling Operation Warp Speed. That’s exactly what needs to happen. Operation Warp Speed did not live up to the corny name that it had. It left tons of places just reeling, looking for where our next shipment would come from,” Neidhardt said. “They also have this big plan to do 100 million doses in the first 100 days. We are completely aligned on that front.”
Krueger described her emotional reaction to Wednesday’s changing of the guard:
“I have to say, I felt so much optimism the minute that other guy got on the plane and left town. The sky suddenly opened up and turned blue—literally—around the country. And I couldn’t just stop smiling even before any of the actual inaugural process started… It’s not like when we wake up tomorrow it’s all fixed. It’s not. But we probably wake up tomorrow thinking, ‘OK he’s not there anymore. We don’t have to be so terrified of the next thing that pops out from his Twitter account or his signing something or his doing something.'”
Then she addressed the practical and very immediate needs across the Empire State. First, “we all need to work to figure out how we get far more vaccine for the people of our state at a much more rapid clip.” And on the fiscal front, “For me right now it’s about, can we get money from Washington at the levels we need it at. We’ve been begging them for over a year and not getting the amounts and for the purposes we need the money, even though the federal government is the only government that can print money in the basement and send it to us.”
“We can hopefully depend on Washington to be sending us literally billions of additional money to help us close the gap in this year’s budget, protect against having to make continual and ugly and painful cuts in next year’s budget or confront how much do we tax and who and are they really here to pay it anyway,” Krueger continued.
Hear our conversations with Krueger and Neidhardt or the full show below: