Governor Hochul: “I’ve found a person who knows what it’s like to struggle, to work hard, to make something of his life, and to now return his service to the community. That is, my friends, the American dream, how someone who started out with little rose to where he is today, but now turns back and doesn’t think about himself. He thinks about how he can serve not just his Senatorial district, but now he’ll be helping me serve 20 million New Yorkers. It’s an extraordinary responsibility. I wouldn’t have asked you if I didn’t think you’re up for the task. And I know you are.”
Lieutenant Governor Benjamin: “Thank you, Governor, for putting your trust in me. New York State, I will do everything I can to make sure that those who are living at the margins, those who are struggling, those who are overlooked will have a seat at the table, and we will make sure that there’s fairness, accountability, and good practical decision-making that governs our activities. And thank you so much, Governor Hochul, for this opportunity to serve. I will not let you down. New York State, I will not let you down, either.”
Earlier today, Governor Kathy Hochul introduced and welcomed New York State Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin at a swearing in ceremony.
AUDIO of today’s remarks is available here.
A rush transcript of today’s remarks is available below:
Governor Hochul: Well, I’m fired up. Anybody else fired up? Well, Reverend, that was extraordinary, and a reminder, first of all, we are in the presence of God, and God guides our lives, and I feel that very strongly in the responsibilities I have, and also that’s one of the reasons I selected a person like Brian Benjamin to be in my Lieutenant Governor, because I want people to understand also what service is all about. And you identified so many ways that he has served the people, and now I believe it is so critical that we have a partnership, a partnership in our state government, where we can continue adding honor back to the phrase “public servants.” And I want to make sure that we all live by those standards that I hold dear. So Pastor Walrond, thank you. Thank you very much. And I look forward to seeing you on a Sunday morning soon. I will be there, I will be there. Sometimes they share the alter with me. I kind of get a little fire and brimstone in me too, believe it or not. Okay. So I’ve, I’ve been called Reverend Hochul, but we’ll have to, let’s let y’all see that.
And also we’re joined by Judge Analisa Torres who will be converting the honor of swearing in our Lieutenant governor and she’s in the United States District Court, a judge for the Southern District of New York. Also we have with us Hazel Dukes, the president of the NAACP, let’s give her a round of applause as well. She does an extraordinary job of leading not just New York City, but the entire state, and I’ve seen her presence and her influence in countless cities across New York. Also our former Assemblymember, Keith Wright, I want to thank him for his leadership, all he has done, and your friendship that you’ve given to Brian Benjamin and guiding him to this place today.
Tamika Mallory is here as well. I want to thank her for all the great things she does in her positions to help bring justice to people in their lives, so thank you. And I’m all about the family, and Caroline, you’re doing fabulous, sweetheart. Hang in there, hang in there, to you and to Cat, thank you for being a partner in Brian’s journey toward public service, because ask my husband, it is a partnership and we come to rely on our families to give us strength at home, but also the wisdom and the love that helps propel us to do what we do every day. So let’s give a round of applause to Cat and Caroline. Yvonne and Alvin Saunders, I want to thank you for creating and producing mom. This is a wonderful young man who’s really, as you must’ve seen in him, he has this, this spark, and I know that your union engagement and the activism that you showed at home really became part of who he was and led him to this position today.
So, I’m a mom, it’s all about the moms, because my philosophy is when the kids screw up, they blame the moms. Well, you take all the credit now, okay? Mom, this goes to you as well, and to your many extended family members. I am so grateful because we know that extraordinary times call for extraordinary leadership. And if you only look back at the last two weeks and two days I’ve been on the job, we’ve had extraordinary challenges. Mother nature unleashing her fury on us and devastating the homes and lives of so many of our fellow New Yorkers. At the same time, we’re dealing with the rages of the Delta variant, trying to figure out how we can just finally win this war and allow people to go back to school safely. And kids finally get the education that’s been so long, denied them and they desperately need to be back, but in a safe way. And to get people back to work and to reinvigorate our cities and our communities all across the state.
We have a lot on our plate. We also want to make sure that we continue to restore trust in government, let people know that we believe that integrity is everything. They were going to continue to lead in a way that people will hopefully look back on and say that it was a shining time in our state’s history. But I can’t do it alone. I need someone at my side. Someone who also I rely upon for their wisdom and their guidance and their local knowledge of issues of what’s going on in the public housing in the city and how we can do much better for the people who call those sometimes hellacious environments their home, and what we’re going to do to protect our environment and fight climate change, because we’ve seen what it looks like. It is no longer an abstract theory into the future. It is what happened in the streets of Queens, where I held the hands of people who are absolutely devastated and crying for help. We have seen we have to do so much more there.
The specter of opioid abuse, and I know this is also a passion of ours, of our new Lieutenant Governor, what we can do to just help people when they turn to addiction because they don’t think they have a better option in life and how we help them heal and recover. That is so important. It’s to my core, something I want to continue to focus on. And criminal justice. We have to continue the fight to ensure that yes, we have safe streets, that we respect the individuals who wear a uniform who will protect us, but also understand there has to be accountability, there has to be a balance, there has to be a trust that has been lacking for far too long. And I know this is something my Lieutenant Governor is going to go at with a passion and bring ideas to me as well as we work on this collaboratively.
We have no choice. We have no choice. And that’s why I’ve found a person who knows what it’s like to struggle, to work hard, to make something of his life, and to now return his service to the community. That is, my friends, the American dream, how someone who started out with little rose to where he is today, but now turns back and doesn’t think about himself. He thinks about how he can serve not just his Senatorial district, but now he’ll be helping me serve 20 million New Yorkers.
It’s an extraordinary responsibility. I wouldn’t have asked you if I didn’t think you’re up for the task. And I know you are. And I have every confidence in you that we’ll be sending to higher positions and higher levels of accomplishment because that’s who we are. We’ll never rest on our laurels. We will have a good day, but tomorrow better be a great day, and I’m going to keep pushing and pushing and pushing, anyone who’s ever worked with me knows I’m that focused. And I approach this whole responsibility with a huge sense of urgency, because there are people in the state looking to us for leadership and we are going to deliver that. So with that, I’d like to bring everyone up for the swearing in ceremony of Brian Benjamin to be my Lieutenant Governor, and bring up the family, and our judge, Analisa Torres. Judge Torres, please come up.
[Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin is Sworn In]
Lieutenant Governor Benjamin: Well, welcome to my family. I want to thank Governor Kathy Hochul. It has been a pleasure since the moment you asked me to stand by your side. You have shown so much leadership in the last few weeks. The collaboration that you have brought to New York State, the compassion that you have shown in people’s times of need, you know, when we were – on Tuesday, with President Biden in Western Queens, you didn’t just come for the photo op you had come before multiple times and people recognized you and thanked you. They said that they believe that New York State would deliver because of your presence. So I want to thank you for everything that you’ve done so far to create a sense of normalcy and a time that is absolutely not normal, politically and environmentally.
You know, whether it’s fighting for safer streets, advancing nation leading gun reform, combating the opioid epidemic and enhancing addiction treatment services or advocating for affordable and supportive housing, Governor Hochul wants to make sure that we all have a seat at the table. And I think that you asking me to join the administration has made it abundantly clear that you want upstate and downstate, every ethnicity, every culture to feel included. And for too long, people have not felt included that they have a seat at the table, that their issues would be brought to the forefront. And I’m proud to say that you are creating an administration that will do so.
The governor has asked me to focus on a couple of things to start. I know there was always a thought Lieutenant Governor doesn’t have a robust portfolio. Let me just say that when Kathy Hochul was Lieutenant Governor, she had a very robust portfolio. She was in Harlem, all over this city, but particularly in my district, helping our small businesses and I want to thank you for that. And I want to thank you for bringing me to the table right now to say let’s focus on a couple of things that I want you to take a leadership role on.
Number one, she’s asked me to be helpful as it relates to tackling the COVID epidemic. She has asked me to work to make sure that communities across the state, particularly those where there’s a concern about whether or not they should take the vaccine, where there’s less knowledge about the vaccine, she wants to make sure that I am part of the team that goes around to make sure that people know that the vaccine is the answer and that if we are going to get through this COVID epidemic, we have to do it together. And the vaccine is the key.
Secondly, she has asked me to play a very important role as it relates to making sure that renters, small landlords, and workers who have really had significant struggles because of COVID. People can’t pay their rent, we have small landlords who are literally cashing life insurance policies, taking out second mortgages on their homes because they don’t have the support. And as we know, there was $2.7 billion of ERAP funding that has come to New York State. She has committed and wants me to assist with making sure that that money gets out the door to real people. So far, only 300 million has actually gotten in the hands of real people. We want to make sure that that number is ramped up much quicker and I will work diligently with our governor to do so.
Lastly, she mentioned the NYCHA task force that she wants to lead. As the senator representing Harlem, East Harlem, and the Upper West Side, I have the most NYCHA of any senators in the state. And so I know very clearly the issues around the 40 billion plus dollars of capital needs that are there and growing quickly. The amount of issues that relates to elevators, repairs, people having to wait over 200 days to get their issues addressed at their homes. We can and must do better as New York State. The governor’s asked me to chair a task force to work on doing so, and I will give my level best to make sure we get that job done.
Let me just say in closing, thank you, Governor, for putting your trust in me. New York State, I will do everything I can to make sure that those who are living at the margins, those who are struggling, those who are overlooked will have a seat at the table, and we will make sure that there’s fairness, accountability, and good practical decision-making that governs our activities. And thank you so much, Governor Hochul, for this opportunity to serve. I will not let you down. New York State, I will not let you down, either. Thank you very much.