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Hochul and Progressives Clash Over Bills Stadium

SHANTEL DESTRA, HOST: New York’s progressive wing of the Democratic party isn’t happy with a proposal to spend state tax dollars on football. Governor Kathy Hochul recently said she wants to make a deal with the Buffalo Bills to build a brand new stadium. And likely subsidize the project. Today, a coalition of activists staged a rally outside of Hochul’s New York City office to protest the stadium deal. Uptown Radio’s David Marques went down to Midtown to find out where they want to see that money go instead.

PROTESTORS: Hell no to Cuomo 2.0. Hell no to Cuomo 2.0.

DAVID MARQUES, BYLINE: A crowd forms in front of a glassy Third Avenue skyscraper, chanting slogans and holding banners. They don’t mince words when they denounce Hochul’s stadium plan. A new stadium for the Buffalo Bills could cost as much as 1.4 billion dollars. Governor Hochul hasn’t formally announced exactly how much tax money would go to the stadium, but estimates have ranged as high as a billion dollars. The protestors here say you could do a lot of other things with that money.

LEONEL LOPEZ: The NFL has enough money as it is. We don't need to be giving more money to the NFL to just make another stadium.

MARQUES: Leonel Lopez wants to see Hochul embrace more money for housing instead. He was excited to see the state pass the HONDA Act last year, which allows for the conversion of unused hotels into permanent housing. But he’s worried about its future.

LOPEZ: We think it’s a really good idea. But we think that it is severely underfunded. We want specifically $100 million more for that project instead.

MARQUES: The protestors all had things they’d rather have funded. Everything from bail reform to community policing. But the purpose of today’s protest was also political. Many of the people there are supporters of Jumaane Williams, New York City’s public advocate. Williams is looking to replace Hochul as the Democratic nominee for governor later this year. As in past races, he has the support of New York’s progressives. Williams spoke to the crowd and said that Hochul’s approach to public safety relies on outdated – and inaccurate ideas about the role of police.

JUMAANE WILLIAMS: There are people I went to high school with who are dead from gun violence. We were told in the 90s that heavy police presence was what was going to solve it. If that would’ve solved it, it would’ve been solved already.

MARQUES: Williams is far behind in the race for governor. Polls consistently have Hochul commanding the small field by a large margin. Bobbie Finkelstein, an activist with the Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, is backing Williams, despite the odds.

BOBBIE FINKELSTEIN: I do think he has a hard road compared to Hochul, both in name recognition and money. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight for people that are working towards reforms that we feel are important.

MARQUES: Any Stadium deal will likely be a major point of contention in the election season ahead. Governor Hochel argues that she just wants to make sure that the Bills stay in Buffalo and any stadium would have many different revenue sources. Hochul says she expects to wrap up the Bills deal before the state budget is due on April 1st.

David Marques, Columbia Radio News


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