Leave it to Gov. Kathy Hochul to use a helicopter to visit New Yorkers struggling at the pump.
The Democrat took a $2,500 chopper ride from Albany to Queens last June just to visit a BP gas station on Astoria Boulevard for a brief photo op, according to newly released records detailing Hochul’s jet-setting ways.
“New Yorkers are feeling pain at the pump, so today we’re cutting the state gas tax through the end of the year,” Hochul tweeted after her brief June 1 visit to the Queens station, where she reportedly did not bother to talk to anyone, station employees said.
The pricey June 1 trip to New York City was just one of roughly 50 Hochul flights detailed in the newly released schedule of the governor’s plane trips between April and June.
It comes after The Post has already detailed numerous other flights taken by the governor at taxpayer expense, sometimes apparently just to attend events designed to fill her political war chest.
The latest revelations prompted critics to blast Hochul’s lavish aviating.
“While the costs are substantial and excessive, there is no tangible, legitimate benefit to the people of New York. It’s time to shut down the governor’s frequent flyer program,” Republican Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay (R-Oswego) told The Post.
“Kathy Hochul’s endless air travel is being paid for by taxpayers, so she can crisscross the state to pad her campaign account and support her election efforts.”
Experts say an hour-long chopper ride runs about $2,500 while the airplanes cost about $1,300.
The total costs of Hochul’s flights as governor easily reach the hundreds of thousands of dollars, with costs rising with each takeoff and landing.
The governor has taken private flights at times, and her campaign has refunded taxpayers for a handful of flights.
Here are a few examples from her 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 chopper to Albany to record virtual remarks for several events from the ceremonial Red Room in the state Capitol before attending two private events, then flying back to New York City the following morning.
- June 1 – Hochul flies to LaGuardia and drives 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 at 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 into law three days before the primary.
New details about her flying habits amid historically high gas prices follow earlier revelations by The Post about how she has used a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter alongside Beechcraft airplanes — one of which was reportedly commandeered from the New York Power Authority.
Hochul has argued that minimal government business, or even a desire to visit her hometown of Buffalo, justify the costs to taxpayers for flights that also transport her to campaign events.
“A governor is allowed to go home,” Hochul said in July following growing criticism and calls by political rivals for probes into roughly 200 gubernatorial flights, which include taking a state plane to her hometown last year to see the Buffalo Bills’ home opener.
Her reps on Tuesday defended her airplane use.
“Governor Hochul works around the clock, visits all 62 counties every year, and travels across the state by car, train, and plane to deliver for New Yorkers because it’s her job. We strictly follow applicable guidance, and all aircraft use is approved by counsel,” Hochul spokeswoman Hazel Crampton-Hays said in a statement
Hochul is hardly the only governor to get political grief over taxpayer-funded flights.
The incumbent Democrats has built a jumbo jet-size campaign war chest that has sparked allegations of pay-to-play schemes with campaign donors, including one who received a $637 million no-bid contract from the state for COVID-19 rapid tests.
Hochul’s political rivals have seized on the issue ahead of the Nov. 8 election against Republican nominee Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) of Suffolk County as part of efforts to paint Hochul for voters as out-of-touch and corrupt amid outrage over alleged pay-to-play schemes.
“Kathy Hochul treats taxpayer money like her personal slush fund, living like a billionaire running her corrupt enterprise,” GOP state Chair Nick Langworthy, who is running for Congress, said in a statement.
“While you can’t afford your groceries or taxes in New York, she is jaunting around on a taxpayer-funded private plane to raise millions from her donors who she then rewards with jobs and state contracts. Voters must take a stand against this corruption and throw her out of office in November,” he added.