Andrew Cuomo will offer up by lottery hundreds of seats to the general public for his first State of the State address.
ALBANY - Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo is breaking with tradition before he even takes office. Cuomo is taking a pass on delivering his first State of the State address in the Assembly chamber in favor of a nearby convention center. Team Cuomo hopes the move will allow more members of the public to attend. And by eschewing the Assembly chamber, the historical spot for the big speech, the gov gets to skip the site many see as Ground Zero for Albany dysfunction. "The change in setting is a metaphor for the change we must undergo as a state," Cuomo said. "We must reconnect with the people and rebuild a relationship of trust." Cuomo will offer up by lottery hundreds of seats to the general public for the Jan. 5 speech, which he is calling a "message to the People." The governor's annual address, in which he outlines his agenda for the year to come, has been delivered inside the Assembly since the 1920s. It was there that Cuomo's father, three-term Gov. Mario Cuomo, was heckled by since-convicted Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio during his 1992 speech to lawmakers. Some saw the venue switch as a slap at Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the Legislature, which the incoming governor has promised to clean up. But Silver welcomed the change, saying requests to hear the new governor have been overwhelming. Many lawmakers, however, weren't as accepting, with one likening the convention center to a "cellar." They equated it to President Obama delivering his State of the Union outside of the House of Representatives. "The symbol of the grandeur of the state Assembly, which has echoed to the voices of some great people over the years, that symbol was an important one," said Assemblyman John McEneny, an Albany Democrat and state historian. In another break from tradition, Cuomo has asked Silver and Senate Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos to also address the gathering. "The Legislature is a big part of this process ... and I want to develop that relationship, develop that partnership," Cuomo said during an interview on Albany's Talk 1300-AM.