Vice President Visits Albany

VP’s Visit To State Capital

biden_and_cuomoBy Kyle Hughes

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 7) – Vice President Joseph Biden flew here Tuesday in a show of public support for Gov. Andrew Cuomo as he prepares to deliver his State of the State speech Wednesday and reclaim some of the spotlight from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Biden’s quick visit gave a boost to Cuomo, who he praised as one of the nation’s most admired leaders for way New York handled Hurricane Sandy in 2013. “You’re leading,” Biden told Cuomo. “You’re not just leading New York, you’re leading the country.”

The praise came after Cuomo spoke for a half hour about the recovery from the storms that have hit New York since he has taken office in 2011, saying the weather patterns that have caused inland and coastal flooding are a troubling new reality for the state. He said there have been 9 federal disaster declarations in New York in three years.

“I wish everybody could see this presentation,” Biden told Cuomo, after Rep. Paul Tonko, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate co-leaders Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein sat silently on either side of them watching a PowerPoint slideshow narrated by the governor.

Cuomo remains popular with voters, but has had to share the political spotlight in recent weeks with de Blasio, the New York City mayor who has won national attention since his election in November. Cuomo is seeking a second term as governor this year and has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2016. De Blasio’s landslide victory in New York City has resonated with many liberal Democrats who are preparing for mid-term battles with the GOP for control of Congress.

The former Clinton aide is an outspoken liberal who is pushing for higher taxes on the rich and has the support of the state’s powerful public employee and teacher unions. Monday, de Blasio and Cuomo each held press conferences on taxes, Cuomo urging lower taxes and de Blasio calling for higher taxes. The media coverage dubbed the event “dueling press conferences.”

No questions were allowed at Tuesday’s event and reporters were kept secured in the room until an audience that included other state legislators and VIPs was permitted to leave. The dias included Cuomo, Biden, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate co-leaders Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein.

Cuomo billed the event as “Reimagining New York for a New Reality.” He described new techniques being used to protect subways, highways and other infrastructure from flooding, as well as efforts to restore shorelines so they can provide natural protection.

Cuomo said federal disaster aid funds will pay for:

  • “Building the most advanced weather detection system in the nation, with 125 interconnected weather stations to provide real-time warnings of local extreme weather and flood conditions;
  • “Launching the nation’s first (SUNY) College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity;
  • “Replacing and repairing 104 older bridges at risk due to increasing flooding
  • “Implementing the largest reconstruction of the state’s transit system in 110 years with $5 billion of federal funds;
  • “Creating a statewide Strategic Fuel Reserve, and statewide gas station back-up power on critical routes throughout the state;
  • “Hardening the state’s electric grid and creating 10 ‘microgrids’ (independent community-based electric distributions systems);
  • “Building new natural infrastructure to protect the New York’s coastline, and provide advanced flood control for inland waterways;
  • “Training a new Citizen First Responder Corps to make New York residents the best prepared in the nation to deal with emergencies and disasters;
  • “Expanding the $650 million NY Rising Community Reconstruction program to allow 124 communities around the state to create their own individualized storm resilience plans;
  • “Issuing special license plates for first responders.”