It’s a new year and we have a new mayor to contend with an evolving health crisis. What will the headlines be?
As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its third year and the latest variant sweeps through the city, it’s hard to feel optimistic about 2022.
The virus will undoubtedly continue to shape or even create the stories of our lives, from the future of office work and schooling to how new Mayor Eric Adams handles the city’s public health. But there are lots of happenings coming this year with or without the coronavirus — like the rollout of recreational marijuana, redistricting and the governor’s race.
They’re just some of the stories we expect to be making headlines in the coming year. Take a look:
The Governor’s Race
Since Attorney General Letitia James dropped out, the 2022 governor’s race has become a lot less competitive. But Gov. Kathy Hochul isn’t a shoo-in, and at least four other Democrats are planning or threatening to join her in the primary, including Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Rep. Tom Suozzi of Long Island and our outgoing mayor, Bill de Blasio. A number of Republicans are also in the race, including Suffolk County’s Rep. Lee Zeldin.
Some early polling has shown Hochul to be moderately popular, and she is shoring up endorsements from city elected officials already. But it’s a long time between now and when we head to the polls in June.
Retail Marijuana Rollout
New York legalized the use and possession of marijuana in early 2021, but this year is where the rubber meets the road for recreational cannabis.
As we explained in this guide, municipalities in New York had until New Year’s Eve to decide whether to opt out of the law allowing marijuana sales.
Next up, new state cannabis regulators will spend the next few months ironing out licensing and rules for 11 types of businesses in the weed supply chain, including growers, processors, distributors, retail shops and “on-site consumption,” i.e. a cannabis lounge.
There’s a chance we’ll get pot shops by the very end of the year. But experts say people in the five boroughs probably won’t be able to walk into a shop and buy weed until early 2023.
New York’s eviction moratorium shielding tenants from potential homelessness during the pandemic is set to expire on January 15, 2022.
What will happen to it is unclear. It has been extended several times before, and Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state legislature can choose to do that once again — or not.
If it isnt’ extended, monetary rent relief programs will become even more critical than they’ve been, and a relatively new law in New York City providing legal counsel to low-income New Yorkers in Housing Court will be put to the test.
The Eric Adams Era
At the end of 2021, everyone was curious to find out what kind of mayor Adams will be. We’ve had a few glimpses already on key issues that may mark the beginning of his term.
Adams has stuck to his guns on one major law enforcement issue: he wants to bring back solitary confinement on Rikers Island, specifically “punitive segregation” for those who commit violence behind bars. Look for debate over police discipline, too, as the Civilian Complaint Review Board gains the power to initiate investigations of police misconduct, recently granted by the City Council.
How Adams gets along with a City Council full of fresh faces will dictate a lot of issues in New York. Right now, he and newly-anointed Speaker Adrienne Adams — high school classmates with mayor-elect Adams — is cordial. But to all those newbies in the Council who criticize him, especially on public safety? The new mayor says he’ll pay them no mind.
“Their desire is to be disruptive. What am I going to do? I’m going to ignore them. I’m going to stay committed, undistracted and I’m going to grind. If they like it or not, I’m the mayor,” he told reporters at a press conference ahead of the holidays.
And of course, in the first quarter of 2022, Adams will take the reins amid a frightening new wave fueled by the COVID variant Omicron. De Blasio’s first big test was a snowstorm. Adams’ may be the tumult of handling testing capacity, and fear, while encouraging the city’s recovery. (And it might also snow.)
Build Back Better
As for so many cities across the country, the pending Build Back Better bill in the U.S. Senate could have far-reaching consequences for New York.
With tens of billions earmarked for public housing, the bulk of NYCHA’s repair and maintenance budget could be covered after years of neglect and underfunding.
But the fate of the bill is unclear, and rests in the hand of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has said he will join Republicans in voting against the package. But Sen. Chuck Schumer said the Senate will nevertheless hold a vote on it next year.
This is the year that New York will redraw its political districts based on the most recent census data — and the fight about it will heat up really soon.
The Independent Redistricting Commission submitted a second set of dueling maps — drawn along party lines — to the state legislature on Jan. 3.If the Albany lawmakers reject the IRC’s district boundaries, the commission has until Feb. 28 to do another set.
After that, if there’s no agreement, the Legislature can draw their own maps. All of this may interfere with the timing and processes candidates need to prepare for June’s primary.
It is tough to run for office without knowing exactly what your district will be, right? This year may answer that question. Buckle up!
As COVID cases rise, schools are coping with sickness among staff and students as best they can, with some going remote again.
As New York gets a new schools chancellor, that may become official policy once more. Adams’ chancellor, David Banks, told Chalkbeat NY that it’s “really important” to “provide some level of a remote option.”
“Of course, the most important thing is for kids to be back in school, we get that,” he told the site. “But I think what’s also critically important is that we recognize that some parents are still fearful, legitimately, about the pandemic — about our ability to keep their kids safe.”
Shifting gears to remote classes mid-year would be a huge undertaking, but some parents and teachers have been pushing for it for months. Whether Banks heeds that call remains to be seen.
Office Work: Back in Action, or on the Back Burner?
In mid-November, before the most recent wave of rising COVID cases, Hochul said that she wanted office workers back at their desks by the new year. Now it seems as though the governor’s goal is a far-off dream.
Shortly before Hochul voiced that wish, the business group Partnership for New York City said 28% of office workers had returned to the office as of late October, and 49% planned to be back by the end of January 2022.
The picture isn’t as clear anymore. Companies all over the country are delaying come-back-to-the-office plans. In New York, city employees are calling for a remote option and private employers are seeing their offices completely empty once again. Going into 2022, the goal of workers back at the water cooler seems more distant than it did just eight weeks ago.