NYLPI’s Statement on Gov. Hochul’s State of the State Address

January 12, 2023

Access-A-Ride, Access-a-Ride Reform Group, Baerga v. City of New York, CCIT-NYC, Disability Justice, Health Justice, Legislative, News, Transforming Mental Health Crisis Response

A glaring sun sets over the New York City skyline.

Erin Gaffney
[email protected]  
(212) 784-5720 

In response to Governor Hochul’s State of the State Address, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) issues the following statement on key policy announcements impacting Disability, Environmental, and Health Justice in New York:     

Increasing Access to Health Care  

We appreciate the Governor’s commitment to strengthening our healthcare system and improving reimbursements for essential services, especially as we enter the fourth year of a pandemic that has tragically impacted so many New York communities and safety net institutions.  We are especially encouraged by proposals to improve Medicaid reimbursements for primary care services and community health workers.  Specifically, NYLPI proposes utilizing trained community health coordinators via a transplant equity program to ensure that all New Yorkers can access life-saving organ transplants, and thereby eliminate existing barriers to such care based on national origin, immigration status, race, and income.  

We are hopeful that the Governor’s Executive Budget proposal will address the exclusion of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers from health coverage because of their immigration status. We believe that further investments in our state’s public insurance programs are urgently needed to both save and improve New Yorkers’ lives, and avoid devastating, preventable health crises.  We call on the Governor and the Legislature to expand eligibility for the State’s Essential Plan beyond 250% of the Federal Poverty Level to all eligible New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status.   

Advancing Climate and Environmental Justice 

The Governor’s announcement of a directive to create a Cap and Invest system could provide our state with the funding and tools necessary to rapidly reduce emissions, create tens of thousands of good, green jobs, and meet the mandates of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.  We strongly support the Governor’s commitment to ensuring that the transition to a sustainable energy economy also increases affordability for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers who struggle with high energy cost burdens in our current fossil fuel-intensive economy. 

To create a successful Cap and Invest mechanism, New York must place equity and justice at the center of its design and implementation.  NYLPI looks forward to working with the Governor’s office, the Legislature, and state agencies to design a program that invests billions of dollars into climate solutions and New York’s Just Transition. 

We must also ensure that any Cap and Invest program specifically and rapidly reduces emissions and pollution in disadvantaged and other environmental justice communities and avoids any disproportionate burdens in ways that exacerbate environmental racism and injustice.  

Similarly, we support the Governor’s focus on making buildings sustainable and call for specific, historic investments in pubic and low-income housing across our state to ensure that communities most harmed by inefficient, unhealthy, and unreliable housing benefit from the state’s drive for efficient, all-electric buildings.    

Given that the Department of Environmental Conservation would only be permitted to administer the “Cap” portion of the program, we call on Governor Hochul and the State Legislature to immediately pass and sign into law the Climate and Community Protection Fund legislation developed by NY Renews to allow for more equitable and effective implementation of the “Invest” portion of the program.  

Increasing Services for Individuals with Mental Health Diagnoses 

NYLPI hails the Governor’s proposal to invest in our citizens with mental health diagnoses and, while we await details, we appreciate the emphasis on outpatient services, housing, services for children, and extended health insurance coverage.  We urge the Governor, however, to ensure that the outpatient services are voluntary, culturally competent, and led by “peers” (individuals with lived mental health experience). Building housing which is permanent – as opposed to more than half of the promised 3,500 units – is key to avoiding debilitating crises, and we urge the Governor to greatly increase the number of permanent units built to match the over 70,000 unhoused individuals with mental health diagnoses statewide.   

NYLPI condemns the emphasis on hospital beds and the statement that individuals with mental health diagnoses are responsible for public safety breaches across the state.   

NYLPI urges the Governor to transform the response to mental health crises by removing police entirely and substituting trained peers and health care workers.  

Improving Transportation 

NYLPI applauds the Governor’s commitment to strengthening bus and subway service, and to electrifying school bus and transit bus fleets – a vital step for students (especially those with disabilities) and the environmental justice communities where diesel bus depots are concentrated.    

However, we also urgently need to make our subway and bus systems fully accessible to people with disabilities and reform paratransit systems for those who cannot use traditional mass transit and regularly confront dysfunctional services like those offered by the MTA’s Access-A-Ride.  We call on the Governor and the Legislature to: 

  1. “Mind” — and eliminate – the gaps between train cars and platforms which have resulted in numerous serious injuries to people with disabilities and render the trains and subways wholly inaccessible to others; 
  2. Fully fund and implement the MTA’s Capital Plan, including making 95% of subway stations fully accessible, by rapidly implementing congestion pricing in the Manhattan Central Business District; 
  3. Make “on-demand” services available to all paratransit riders so they no longer need to plan and book every ride more than 24 hours in advance; 
  4. Offer transit discounts to paratransit riders which are equal to those available to all other riders; and 
  5. Include paratransit vehicles – as well as wheelchair accessible taxis and wheelchair accessible for-hire-vehicles –in the push for electrification. 

NYLPI looks forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature to pass NYLPI’s legislative and budget priorities that will advance justice, sustainability, and lived equality for all New Yorkers. 

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