News of possible delay to congestion pricing emerges from spirited New York governor Democratic primary debate

NEW YORK — The leading Democratic candidates for governor took the debate stage together Tuesday night for the first time right here on CBS2.

gov. Kathy Hochul, Congressman Tom Suozzi and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams went head to head on everything from gun violence to marijuana and the supernatural, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported.

It was the debate the two gubernatorial wannabees were waiting for — the opportunity to finally confront Gov. Hochul face to face and try to convince New Yorkers that they would do a better job running the state.

But she upstaged them with a news nugget that is sure to please many who live in the Tri-State Area.

It came in response to a simple question from CBS2’s Maurice Dubois.

“Ms. Hochul, congestion pricing, should it happen now or later?” Dubois asked.

“I support congestion pricing, but we’ve been in negotiations with the federal government that has the say on the next step and they have now put some other, I’ll call them other hurdles in the way that we have to overcome,” Hochul said.

But governor Hochul’s answer was probably music to the ears of business leaders who fear that congestion pricing will make it more difficult to convince their employees to give up telecommuting and come back to Midtown offices.

“Could you tell us how long congestion pricing is going to be delayed in New York?” Kramer asked.

“I don’t have the answer. I don’t think it’s going to be before the end of this year,” Hochul said.

READ MORENew Yorkers Sound Off: Why Go Ahead With Congestion Pricing When MTA Just Had $25 Billion Fall Into Its Lap?

But as to whether it should be delayed because of the pandemic, Williams said, “We should do it now.”

“It should be postponed for at least a year. I support congestion pricing, but not now in the middle of this financial crisis,” Suozzi said.

And with the Democratic primary some three weeks away, it was the first time Gov. Hochul debated her Democratic challengers. They spent the night doggedly trying to score points on a host of issues, ranging from letting judges consider dangerousness in bail reform, locating a casino in Manhattan, and the Buffalo Bills stadium deal

At one point, Suozzi tried to sneak in a two-fer — bail reform and the Bills.

“When it came to the Buffalo Bills stadium, she got something done that nobody thought could get done. It’s so unpopular. It’s a billion dollars. It’s the most lucrative deal in the history of the NFL. She got that done. She twisted arms But when it came to bail reform, she didn’t engage,” Suozzi said.

And when it came to guns, Williams attempted to attack the governor for a bill signing on toughening state laws in the wake of the Buffalo shooting

“When I saw the bill signing yesterday, and it’s already a commercial now, it reminded me of the Cuomo press conferences during the pandemic,” Williams said.

Despite the attacks, the governor was calm and unruffled, although when Suozzi said there was no daylight between the three of them on abortion, Hochul shot back.

“Talk about daylight, there’s so much bright daylight between our positions that I need to find a pair of sunglasses,” Hochul said.

The three seemed to find common ground of sorts during the lightning round when they were asked if they believe in ghosts.

“No. I believe in spirits, though. Yeah, I guess I do,” Suozzi said.

“I’m a man of faith, so I don’t know if I’d call it ghosts, but I do believe in an afterlife,” Williams said.

“I speak to my mother all the time. I lost her just months before I became lieutenant governor, so, yes, I do communicate with someone who is no longer with us,” Hochul said.

The question of whether they would support Bill de Blasio for Congress proved to be a sticky wicket. The governor said she wouldn’t endorse in the primary. Williams said he was planning something in the race but wouldn’t say what or who. Only Suozzi, an actual congressman, said absolutely not.

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