Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke this morning at Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in Harlem, saying New York has improved opportunities for minorities and will take further steps to reduce criminal punishment and create job opportunities.
Cuomo said he will convene a task force to look at ending a state law that prosecutes 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. New York is one of only two states to still have that law, he said.
“That law has to go,” Cuomo said to cheers. “I’m going to make it a priority this session.”
Sharpton said Cuomo indicated earlier this week he wanted to speak at the weekly rally in advance of Martin Luther King Day on Monday, saying Cuomo wanted to “set a tone for the weekend in the state.”
Cuomo, who is seeking re-election in the fall, said government needs to be a “vehicle for change, a vehicle for action. It is there to make people’s lives better now—not 10 years from now, not 20 years from now.”
Cuomo said he plans to boost employment training programs for African-American males, in particular, who struggle with a 40 percent unemployment rate in the country.
He said New York has exceeded his goal of providing 20 percent of business to minority and women-owned companies. He said New York has closed more than 5,000 prison cells since he took office in 2011.
“I’m proud to be in the business of closing prison cells instead of opening them,” Cuomo said.
The Democratic governor also touted New York’s controversial gun-control law passed last year, saying, “We made a big difference in the state of New York when we were the first state to pass the best, smartest, gun-control legislation in this country, called the SAFE Act.”
He vowed to try to limit the inequalities in education by enacting pre-kindergarten statewide and passing a $2 billion bond act to improve school technology.
“We have some of the best schools in the country, and we have some of the worst schools in the country,” he said. “And literally it depends on what part of town you are in.”
Overall, Cuomo reiterated his theme that New York should lead the country in innovation.
“Let’s point the way on justice, let’s point the way on jobs, let’s point the way on equality, let’s point on the way on getting thing done and using government as a vehicle for social justice, which is what Martin Luther King spoke about so many years ago,” Cuomo said. “And let’s say to the other states, New York points the way once again.”