After a 3-day whirlwind solidarity and trade mission to Israel, New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo not only conducted a network of meetings with a vast array of prominent Israeli business and government leaders but announced that the results of his meetings yielded “good news” for the Empire State’s economy.
According to an AP report on Monday, Cuomo detailed the accomplishments of his trip which include new research and development partnerships on drones, renewable energy, health care and transportation.
Under one of the agreements, experts from Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology will work with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to study possible upgrades to New York City’s subway and train navigation systems.
Another partnership announced during the trip will create a $2.5 million competition for companies working on electric vehicles, energy efficiency and electric grid reliability.
What prompted Governor Cuomo’s trip was a need to display solidarity with the Jewish people residing in New York and throughout the country who are experiencing a horrifying escalation in anti-Semitic attacks.
According to an Ha’Aretz report, anti-Semitic incidents have been on the rise in New York over the past two years. According to the Anti-Defamation League’s latest audit, anti-Semitic assaults rose 55 percent between 2017 and 2018 and represented nearly half of all such recorded attacks nationally.
The New York state numbers are part of a national trend: Violent attacks against the Jewish community in the United States in general doubled last year.
Speaking at length on the current trends of rising anti-Semitism at the recent “Celebrate Israel” parade in New York City on June 2nd, Cuomo said:
“Cancer of the American body politics has been the new way. Cancer because one cell attacks another. When you have Jewish people being attacked, gays, members of the LGBTQ community being attacked, with anti-Semitic sayings, anti-Muslim, anti-African-American. This is a cancer of hate that is all throughout our country and unfortunately even in our State of New York.
There was a time when we could have political differences, but it didn’t turn into hate. We’ve always had political differences, back to our founding fathers we had political differences. But we tolerate them and we understand them. We can have political differences about Israel and Palestine, that’s what makes democracy that debate. But when did the strongest four letter word in America become hate instead of love? That’s what’s most troubling. And that is what is now going on.
These anti-Semitic attacks are personal to the Cuomo family. We have many friends who we grew up with who are of the Jewish faith. I have two brothers in law who are Jewish, my mother has two sons in law, my daughters have two uncles–Howard and Ken–who are Jewish. These anti-Semitic attacks, the Cuomo family takes personally. Every family in New York takes personally.
And I want the people of this state to be clear: anti-Semitism is not just wrong and immoral and unethical and anti-American; it is also illegal. And we will enforce the law to the fullest extent and you have my word on that.”
Cuomo took the occasion of the 55th annual celebratory parade for Israel to announce his trip to Israel.
Cuomo said, “As a sign of solidarity, at this time of crisis for the Jewish people, I’m going to be doing another trip to Israel as a trip in solidarity right after the legislative session and I invite my Jewish colleagues to join us as a sign of solidarity. New York stands with Israel. We are all Jewish today. We all appreciate the Jewish community. They are part of what makes New York, New York and one of the best parts.”
Cuomo’s trip took place between June 26-28. He arrived back in time to make an appearance at the Heritage of Pride parade in New York City on June 30th.
Cuomo was accompanied on his trip to Israel by Dani Dayan, the Consul General of Israel in New York City.
Prior to their trip, the Jerusalem Post reported that Dayan said, “I am very much looking forward to joining Governor Cuomo on this visit to Israel and applaud him for taking this important step in solidarity with the Jewish community. Governor Cuomo sets an example to leaders all over the world who are battling increasing antisemitism in their communities. We cannot ignore the spread of this dangerous disease: We must face it head-on, making it clear once and for all that it will not be tolerated.”
Ha’Aretz reported that Cuomo said upon arriving in Israel last week: “I would like to say we’ve been immune in New York but we’re not. There are 1.5 million Jewish people in New York, more Jewish people in New York then any place outside of Israel.”
“As governor of New York, I want you to know first I am doing everything possible in my professional capacity,” he added. “We have zero tolerance, we have more police investigations than ever before, we have stricter laws than ever before. When we find people who have done anti-Semitic activity, they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, period.”
Cuomo also discussed the issue with President Reuven Rivlin during a meeting at the President’s residence in Jerusalem on Thursday, according to the Ha’Aretz report.
On Thursday, June 27, Cuomo arrived with his daughters to visit Jerusalem’s Western Wall and participated in a guided tour of the Western Wall tunnels and the new excavations. Cuomo’s guide, Mordechai (Soli) Eliav, spoke of the history of the place and its importance to the Jewish people as the center of longing and yearning for Jerusalem.
The NYS governor expressed his interest in the history of the Jews and their connection to this place and its heritage. Cuomo noted that his deep connection to the Jewish people was lovingly passed from generation to generation and that his father, Mario Cuomo, was a true friend of the Israel.
The rabbi of the Western Wall and the holy sites, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, received the governor personally and they both read chapter 21 of Psalms. Governor Cuomo then placed a note between the stones of the Western Wall.
The rabbi of the Western Wall noted that New York is one of the most prominent Jewish centers in the world and expressed his appreciation to the governor for his friendship with the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
The governor of New York then signed the Guest Book of the Western Wall again, with his signature from two years ago: “I wish to pray for peace and brotherhood to all my friends.”
Cuomo and his family also visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in East Jerusalem, a shrine that holds great significance for the world’s Christian community. He then toured Israel’s national Holocaust museum and memorial, Yad VaShem.
Governor Cuomo, however, did more than go touring on his three-day solidarity trip and trade mission to Israel.
On Friday June 28th, Cuomo toured the Jerusalem offices of Intel subsidiary company Mobileye, which makes the video technology used to guide self-driving cars. Cuomo was eager to recommend that the same technology could be used to enhance New York’s subway systems.
“We have seen tremendous growth in software development for navigational systems to make automobiles safer and more reliable, and if this software works well on the road then we owe it to commuters to test its application for train and rail. I met with Mobileye today to discuss the possible application of their technology to New York’s mass transit system,” Gov. Cuomo said in a statement.
“We have seen tremendous growth in software development for navigational systems to make automobiles safer and more reliable, and if this software works well on the road then we owe it to commuters to test its application for train and rail,” said the Governor. “I met with Mobileye on Friday to discuss the possible application of their technology for New York’s mass transit system. The MTA spends millions of dollars on navigational tools, and we want to look beyond the handful of companies who essentially have a monopoly on the rail system to develop a navigation program capable of supporting the 21st century transit system New Yorkers need and deserve.”
Cuomo has taken a hands-on approach in recent months, trying to pilot the MTA’s efforts to modernize the signal technology, which guides trains through the city’s rail lines. The Governor was accompanied on his trip by Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, UDC and Technion Board Member Eric Gertler, and MTA Board Member and New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica. The governor believes ultra-wideband technology would speed up signal modernization and be cost efficient, however, the technology is unproven.
Expediting the signal modernization effort is one of the top priorities for Andy Byford, the city’s subways and buses chief. As reported by the NY Post, Cuomo has criticized the MTA for continuing to use technology by the name of Communications Based Train Control, which he says took years to install on the 7 and L train lines.
Not everyone was happy to have Cuomo taking a proactive role. Transit advocates criticized him, saying that he should leave the policy-setting to the MTA’s experts. “Governor Cuomo was on a roll when he got congestion pricing through Albany and hired an accomplished transit executive to run the subways and buses,” said Transit Center Communications Director Ben Fried. “The best thing he could do for transit riders right now is let the professionals he hired do their jobs, instead of inserting himself into procurement and technology decisions.”
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