Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday said those who blame a recent rise in crime on changes to the state’s cash bail laws in 2019 are pushing a “political slogan” rather than looking for real answers.

The Democratic governor’s comments came a day after New York City Mayor Eric Adams and top NYPD officials held a news conference urging Albany policymakers to give judges more discretion to hold defendants on bail before their trial. That would undo a key tenet of the 2019 reforms.

Despite their apparent disagreement on the bail laws — with Adams calling the state’s current criminal justice system “insane” — Hochul insisted she and the mayor are more aligned on the issue of crime than the media suggests. She pointedly suggested that some people are politicizing the issue of bail reform for their own purposes, but did not name any names.

“We never said that the cause of crime in the state is because of bail reform,” Hochul said during an Albany news conference on illegal guns. “That is too simplistic. That is a political slogan. That's all it is. It's ignoring the complexity of what we're dealing with and the fact that we've seen this [crime] surge all across America after this pandemic.”

The battle over the 2019 reforms, which require most defendants to be released without bail before trial on most misdemeanor and nonviolent felony charges, has become a major political football in New York. Republicans across the state – including Hochul’s opponent, Rep. Lee Zeldin – have been attempting to use unrest over the issue to tank Democrats at the ballot box.

It has left Adams, a Democrat and former police officer who ran on a crime-fighting platform, more in line with Republicans than with some of the more left-leaning members of his party, who say the bail reforms helped put an end to a prior policy that effectively criminalized poverty.

Adams has called on state lawmakers to return to the Capitol before January – the scheduled start of their next legislative session – to pass bills that would give judges more discretion in setting bail.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams at a press conference on Wednesday.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams at a press conference on Wednesday.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams at a press conference on Wednesday.
Samantha Max / Gothamist

At his news conference on Wednesday, Adams urged lawmakers and the many arms of the criminal justice system to work together and to focus on the small group of people who commit a large number of crimes.

“Our criminal justice system is insane,” Adams said. “It is dangerous, it is harmful, and it's destroying the fabric of our city."

On Thursday, Hochul pleaded for patience.

The governor has repeatedly suggested that prosecutors and judges aren’t using all the levers the current law allows them to hold defendants on bail, including if, for example, they are accused of committing repeat crimes involving theft or harm to a person or property. She called for more time to analyze a series of newly implemented tweaks to the bail laws, which, among other things, have made it easier for judges to hold someone on bail for repeated offenses.

Those tweaks, which Hochul shepherded through the Legislature in April with support from Adams, only took effect in May. And Hochul said the state needs time to assess whether they are working and, if not, where the breakdown is occurring.

“It takes time to develop,” Hochul said. “It also takes time to change a culture that has been the status quo for a long time, where judges have not been exercising the broad discretion that they have always had, but even more so now with the changes we pushed hard for and achieved.”

The mayor, meanwhile, wants legislators to allow judges to consider whether they think someone poses a danger to the community when deciding if they should set bail. He said he's also shared other recommendations with the governor, though he didn't go into further specifics.

Hochul said she spoke to Adams Wednesday night after his news conference.

“I said, 'let's keep focusing on what we can do together,'” Hochul said. “Do you need more resources from the state? Do you need me to help deploy more state police officers in our subways, walking around Times Square? You tell me what you need and I'll be there.”

The mayor said multiple times Wednesday that he's not trying to attack what he called "righteous" reforms. But he said a message must be sent to the small number of people who are taking advantage of those reforms to repeatedly commit crimes. He also wants more attention paid to the “everyday New Yorkers” who are directly affected when someone with an open charge is rearrested.

“All we hear is, how do we ensure those who commit crimes get justice?” he said. “How do we ensure those who are the victims of crime get justice? Can we have that conversation?”

Adams’ push for legislative change hasn’t been received well by his fellow Democrats in Albany.

The mayor indicated that he had shared his team’s statistics on recidivism with Carl Heastie, the Bronx Democrat who is speaker of the State Assembly. But Heastie disputed that account on Twitter.

“I’m scratching my head regarding the mayor’s recollections of conversations we’ve had. To date, we've received no data from the mayor or his team,” Heastie wrote. “My most recent exchange with him was about my dismay that he claims to have data that vastly differs from what [the state agencies] report.”

New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Yonkers Democrat, released a statement with a similarly cold reply to the mayor, indicating she wasn’t interested in making further changes to the 2019 bail reform law that has been altered twice.

"Everything the mayor cited is something that we have addressed, especially his concerns regarding repeat offenders and gun offenses," she said.