Leave it to Governor Kathy Hochul to use a helicopter to visit struggling New Yorkers at the pumps.
The Democrat took a $2,500 helicopter ride from Albany to Queens last June to visit a BP gas station on Astoria Boulevard for a brief photo op, according to recently released records detailing Hochul’s jet-setting ways.
“New Yorkers are hurting at the pumps, so today we’re reducing the gas tax through the end of the year,” Hochul tweeted after her brief June 1 visit to Queens station, where she apparently didn’t bother to speak to anyone, station workers said.
The expensive June 1 trip to New York was just one of about 50 Hochul flights detailed in the governor’s recently released schedule of air travel between April and June.
It comes after The Post previously detailed numerous other flights the governor has made at taxpayer expense, sometimes seemingly just to attend events meant to fill his political war chest.
The latest revelations have prompted critics to castigate Hochul’s lavish aviation.
“While the costs are substantial and excessive, there is no tangible and legitimate benefit to the people of New York. It’s time to shut down the governor’s loyalty program,” said the minority leader of the Republican Assemblyman William Barclay (R-Oswego) at the Post.
“Kathy Hochul’s endless air travel is paid for by taxpayers, so she can criss-cross the state to fill her campaign account and support her campaign efforts.”
Experts say a one-hour helicopter ride costs around $2,500 while planes cost around $1,300.
The total cost of Hochul’s flights as governor easily runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, with the costs increasing with each takeoff and landing.
The governor occasionally took private flights, and his campaign reimbursed taxpayers for a handful of flights.
Here are some examples of its newly released schedules:
- April 8 – The governor flies to Buffalo from Albany, where she has a phone call with staff and two private events before signing the state budget the next day.
- May 31 – Hochul flies the helicopter to Albany to record virtual remarks for several events from the ceremonial Red Room of the State Capitol before attending two private events and then returning to New York the following morning.
- June 1 – Hochul flies to LaGuardia and heads to a nearby gas station for a photo op before returning to the airport for a ribbon cutting ahead of two private events.
- June 11 – Hochul and her husband, Bill, take a helicopter from Manhattan to present a trophy in Belmont Park on voter-rich Long Island before flying back.
- June 20 – Hochul holds 11 private events in deep blue Brooklyn after flying from Buffalo to sign a bill three days before the primary.
New details about her flying habits amid historically high gas prices follow earlier revelations from the Post about how she used a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter alongside Beechcraft planes – including the one was reportedly requisitioned by the New York Power Authority.
Hochul argued that minimal government business, or even a desire to visit her hometown of Buffalo, justifies the taxpayer costs of flights that also fly her to campaign events.
“A governor is allowed to go home,” Hochul said in July following mounting criticism and calls from political rivals to investigate about 200 governor thefts, including taking a state plane to his hometown. last year to see the Buffalo Bills home opener.
Its representatives on Tuesday defended its use of the plane.
“Governor Hochul works around the clock, visits all 62 counties each year, and travels across the state by car, train, and plane delivering to New Yorkers because it’s her job. We are strictly following applicable guidelines and all aircraft use is approved by an attorney,” Hochul spokeswoman Hazel Crampton-Hays said in a statement.
Hochul isn’t the only governor to complain politically about taxpayer-funded thefts.
The incumbent Democrats have built a jumbo jet-sized campaign war chest that has sparked allegations of payment schemes for messing with campaign donors, including one who received a 637 no-bid contract million state dollars for rapid COVID-19 tests.
Democrats like a disgraced ex-governor. Andrew Cuomo and Republicans like South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem have also been criticized for their use of public aircraft for personal or political purposes.
Hochul’s political rivals have seized on the issue ahead of the Nov. 8 election against Republican candidate Lee Zeldin (R-NY) of Suffolk County as part of efforts to portray Hochul to voters as out of touch and corrupt amid aroused outrage alleged payment systems to play.
“Kathy Hochul treats taxpayers’ money like her personal slush fund, living like a billionaire running her corrupt business,” GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy, a congressional candidate, said in a statement.
“While you can’t pay your groceries or your taxes in New York, she flies around in a taxpayer-funded private plane to raise millions from her donors who she then rewards with jobs and contracts with the state. Voters must take a stand against this corruption and reverse it in November,” he added.