NYC bodegas back Hochul’s plan to give judges more power to set bail as ‘crime is growing’

New York City bodega owners voiced support Wednesday for Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to give judges more discretion in setting bail — saying repeat offenders were “taking advantage” of the state’s controversial bail reform law.

Fernando Mateo, who heads the United Bodegas of America, said the group was “calling on Albany to step up to improve public safety without rolling back a commitment to justice.”

During a news conference outside the group’s Bronx headquarters, Mateo said the 2019 weakening of New York’s bail rules was “designed with the right intention.”

“But the people taking advantage of the bail laws are the repeat offenders, are the people who commit crime after crime — and they are released time after time,” he said.

“That doesn’t make sense. None of us want that. What we want is a safe city, a safe environment.”

United Bodegas of America news conference.
United Bodegas of America spokesman Fernando Mateo speaks at a news conference in The Bronx on Wednesday.
Stephen Yang

Gov. Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul wants to give judges more discretion in setting bail.
Mike Groll/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

Mayor Eric Adams has blamed about 1,700 repeat offenders for much of the Big Apple’s mayhem, saying in his January State of the City speech: “We know who they are, and we need to get them off our streets.”

As part of her proposed $227 billion state budget for fiscal 2024, Hochul wants to eliminate a rule that requires judges to impose the “least restrictive means” that will ensure defendants return to court.

Surveillance image of the "Hazmat Killer."
The “Hazmat Killer” wanted in Friday’s fatal shooting of a 67-year-old bodega clerk in Manhattan.
James Messerschmidt for NY Post

UBA president Radhames Rodriguez, 60, told The Post that state lawmakers needed “to go back and change bail reform, and do those changes that they need to do to have criminals behind bars.”

“After the pandemic has come, we have seen the crime is growing. We feel very uncomfortable and very unsafe,” he said. “Nobody wants to work in the store because they feel unsafe.”

Exterior of the Doana Gourmet Deli & Grocery.
The scene of Friday’s slaying on the Upper East Side.

Rodriguez, who owns two bodegas in The Bronx, said, “We don’t have the safety that the city [Manhattan] has” and referenced Friday’s fatal shooting of a clerk at the Doana Gourmet Deli & Grocery on the Upper East Side by an elusive robber known as the “Hazmat Killer.”

“When that happened in the city, that made us more scared than we usually are,” he said.