Editorial Roundup: New York

Auburn Citizen. May 25, 2022.

Editorial: NY taking another shot at reuse plans for prisons

An effort has begun to find new uses for former state prisons that have been closed across New York, and we can only wait and hope that things go better this time around.

The 15 member Prison Redevelopment Commission met for the first time this week with the goal of “reimagining shuttered state prison properties as hubs of regional opportunity,” Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office announced.

The effort involves Empire State Development, the Ford Foundation, real estate firms and the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and other state agencies.

We’re glad to see a committee working on closed prisons. The closures were supposed to be met with a real effort to benefit communities in some fashion after the state jobs left town, but that work has fallen far short, and most communities have been left empty handed.

A similar effort launched in 2014 included $8 million for finding a reuse for the former Butler Correctional Facility in Wayne County, but the $32 million in incentives available through the Economic Transformation Program didn’t have much of an impact. The Associated Press reported in 2017 that the best efforts at selling state properties for redevelopment was being hampered by the reality that “thick-walled cell blocks, dormitories and infirmaries tend to be too expensive to tear down and too restrictive to turn into viable enterprises.”

We realize that these facilities can be unattractive to developers, but it’s a shame that so few workable options have yet to be found. We hope this new commission will take the lessons learned from the one before it and turn things around. Perhaps a fresh set of eyes — and an appropriate amount of investment and incentives from the state — can be turned into wins for communities.

Hochul’s office said that the goal of this new group is to come up with “a clear and credible plan of action” to redevelop former prison properties. The commission will gather feedback from affected communities and issue a public report at the end of the process.

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New York Post. May 24, 2022.

Editorial: NY Assembly’s scheme would end mayoral control, keeping only the name

Beware: The draft Assembly plan to renew mayoral control of the city’s public schools is a stealth bid to undermine it.

Yes, it would give Mayor Eric Adams the three-year extension he initially requested, but at the price of reducing his direct appointments to the schools-governing Panel for Educational Policy from nine of 15 members to 10 of 18 — while also making it near-impossible to fire an appointee for providing a swing vote to thwart his reform agenda.

That last is the true point of setting staggered, fixed terms for the mayor’s appointees.

This is a play by Assembly Democrats to please the United Federation of Teachers, whose power grows directly as the mayor’s shrinks and as accountability is blurred. The UFT would love to return to the nobody-truly-in-charge days of the old Board of Education; this plan pushed it that way.

And the idea that three new seats would allow for representation of more views (parents of special needs kids, or even charter-school parents) is a just camouflage: Who gets to pick these new members is key, and you can bet the process would be something complex that would maximize UFT influence.

Meanwhile, Senate Education Committee chief John Liu (D-Queens) suggests other strings to renewal, like mandating class sizes of 25 or less. That’s mainly meant to maximize UFT membership: Sometimes, larger classes are the best use of limited resources.

Other ideas in the mix are creating an “independent” schools watchdog to report back to the Legislature, as if the State Education Department (which Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie effectively controls, by the way) didn’t already have all the needed power.

Mayoral control should be permanent, to end the ridiculous and venal “renewal” games. No other system of governance allows for any hope of real accountability.

Yet the Assembly plan looks to “renew” control while actually replacing it. In other words, it’s a bid to end accountability for the schools by lawmakers who themselves don’t want to be accountable for doing it.

Any “victory” like this would doom not only Adams’ hopes to deliver for parents and kids, but all hope for any mayor ever to fix the schools.

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Jamestown Post-Journal. May 24, 2022.

Editorial: Focus School Breakfast, Lunch Programs On Those Who Really Need The Help

It may be next year before legislation to require New York schools to offer free breakfast and lunch to their students is considered in the state Legislature.

Between now and then, we hope the sponsors of A.9518/S.9144, Sen. Michele Hinchey, D-Kingston, and Assemblywoman Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, D-East Elmhurst, make one minor change by focusing the program on those who truly need it.

Hinchey and Gonzalez-Rojas are right when they note far too many families throughout New York state don’t have enough to eat, and we know the free food programs that sprang up during the COVID-19 pandemic helped a lot of children. But their legislation, as proposed, would require all schools to opt into the Community Eligibility Programs offered by the federal government with the state paying the difference between federal aid through the U.S. Agriculture Department and the cost to provide food for all students. The legislation doesn’t note the potential cost to the state, but it’s not going to be cheap.

Heritage Foundation research has shown the more middle- and upper-income students have received free meals since lawmakers enacted the Community Eligibility Program — which is helping drive up the cost to help those who really need it or even expand the program to keep the take-home breakfasts that some children have received during the pandemic and which we’re sure are very helpful to many families.

Hinchey and Gonzalez-Rojas have a worthy goal to help children whose families need help have access to two meals during the school day. Offering free lunches to those who need it in more schools is a good goal. But the program must be focused on those who need help.

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Advance Media New York. May 26, 2022.

Editorial: NY, stop fighting wrongfully convicted man’s claim for compensation

In the interest of justice, Anthony Broadwater was exonerated for a rape he didn’t commit — after 16 years in jail that stole his freedom, his health and his life prospects.

In the interest of justice, New York state should stop fighting Broadwater’s claim for compensation and start negotiating a settlement.

It is insulting for the Attorney General’s Office to question whether Broadwater is truly innocent and to deny the state’s responsibility for Broadwater’s wrongful conviction. We don’t care that its response to Broadwater’s lawsuit was routine legal boilerplate. This is not just any routine lawsuit against the state.

Forty years ago, a man’s life was ruined by police and prosecutors who cut corners to solve a high-profile crime, the rape of a Syracuse University student in a public park. They sent an innocent man to jail based on now-discredited evidence and tainted eyewitness testimony.

The AG’s Office simply should accept the ruling of a judge, who last November overturned Broadwater’s conviction for the rape of Alice Sebold, the author who later wrote a best-selling book about it. It should take the word of the Onondaga County District Attorney, who agreed with Broadwater’s attorneys that the case against him was fatally flawed. And the word of Sebold, who apologized for her role in Broadwater’s railroading.

The state’s opposition to Broadwater’s claim appears to contradict both the letter and the intent of a law enacted in 2007 by the state Legislature to streamline the claims of people wrongfully convicted of crimes. Broadwater’s lawyers note that he is in poor health and may not have years to wait for a lawsuit to play out.

Attorney General Letitia James should direct her staff to expedite Broadwater’s case instead of fighting it. It’s the right thing to do.

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Albany Times Union. May 24, 2022.

Editorial: It’s about more than sport bras, Albany schools

The Albany school district gave students an abject lesson in adult short-sightedness.

On a recent hot afternoon, female members of Albany High School’s track and field squad were told they could not practice in only their sports bras. Thus began a controversy that has garnered national attention.

Some of the athletes told the Times Union’s James Allen that when they balked at the rule, district Athletic Director Ashley Chapple asked them to leave the practice. The students complied, they said, but quickly launched a change.org petition protesting gender bias and claiming male athletes at the practice “were asked nicely to put shirts back on” without punishment.

The story does not end there, unfortunately. That same night, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, many of the track athletes were barred by Ms. Chapple and security guards from attending a lacrosse game on campus. The next day, 13 of the girls were suspended from school.

The district says the punishment was unrelated to the wearing of sports bras and was instead in response to vulgar language and “inappropriate and disrespectful behavior” from the girls both at practice and at the game. But students interviewed insisted no vulgar language was used.

The punishment certainly raises questions, including this one: Why were the girls barred from the game when they had not yet been formally suspended? Was it retribution for the petition, as some contend?

If the allegation is true, the move runs counter to what Albany schools should be about. The district should be encouraging students to use their voices and to protest injustice — even when the district administrators and policies are the focus of the protest.

In the end, it is hard not to conclude that Ms. Chapple and the district bungled this situation, turning what should have been a teachable moment into an abject lesson on how short-sighted adults can get things wrong.

Certainly, the district has the right to enforce its dress code and its codes of conduct and to punish students who run afoul of the rules. But the district should not quash the right of students to protest rules deemed unfair, and punishments must not be used as retribution for students who are voicing legitimate opinions on inequality.

The district says it will take another look at the clothing requirements within its code of conduct. In fact, members of the track and field team — 12 of the suspended members have been reinstated — have been invited to suggest revisions to the dress code for the next school year.

That’s rather after the fact, of course, but it is some progress, and we would urge the district to remember that there is nothing prurient about sports bras. They are pieces of athletic equipment, less revealing than bathing suits. It’s prudish to see them otherwise.

Meanwhile, school districts everywhere should remember that students deserve to be heard and that their voices can be powerful. For evidence, look no further than the athletes’ petition, which has now been signed by more than 33,000 people. Powerful, indeed.

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