Editorial Roundup: New York

New York Post. September 14, 2021.

Editorial: There’s a reason Rikers is such a dangerous hellhole: De Blasio just doesn’t care

Mayor Bill de Blasio all but admitted the obvious Tuesday: The Rikers jail complex is a dangerous, out-of-control, inhumane hellhole. Yet there’s no sign he’ll do anything meaningful to fix it.

“We have a situation that is just not acceptable,” Blas huffed Tuesday, and never mind that he’s the one who’s accepted it, as the inmate population plummeted during his tenure, making his job easier. Now he offers a “five-point” plan to address the chaos, but serious reform will clearly have to wait until he’s gone in just over 100 days.

How bad is it? As lawmakers toured Rikers on Monday, an inmate tried to commit suicide before their eyes. Par for the course: This month, Esias Johnson, 24, became the 10th inmate to die there in just the last nine months.

The pols described an intake area with “pools of piss” they had to sidestep. Feces and rotting food covered the floors. A dozen men packed a single cell. Broken cell doors everywhere. Inmates with chronic health conditions not seen by doctors.

Correction Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi, who started in June, calls this “deeply, deeply troubling.” Ya think? Queens Councilman Robert Holden wants Gov. Kathy Hochul to send in the National Guard.

Despite numerous recent Post reports of horrors at Rikers and demands for action from lawmakers, it took until Tuesday for Blas just to roll out his lame five-point plan. It calls for tougher measures for no-show corrections officers and emergency contracting to fix broken doors and clean the facility, which is all fine, but it offers little else of real substance.

The mayor also wants Hochul to enact the “Less Is More Act,” to release yet more criminals, even as violent crime soars. (The legislation targets those held on “technicalities” for release, but two-thirds of Rikers’ 6,000 inmates are accused of violent crimes.)

“Eleven shootings a day, babies getting shot in Times Square, and they want to release more prisoners?” snarks the correction officers union chief, Benny Boscio Jr.

Boscio is right to want more officers hired, but even more important — as a federal monitor noted last month and the Manhattan Institute’s Nicole Gelinas has stressed on these pages — is better management. Some officers are asked to work three shifts, a recipe for disaster and a clear sign of poor leadership.

The fish stinks from the head. De Blasio couldn’t simply focus on rebuilding Rikers or fixing its management woes; far easier to just blame the problems on COVID, talk up his “plan” for new, replacement jails (in, maybe, seven years) and rush off to the Met Gala.

It’s one more problem he’s passing off to his successor. Wish New York’s next mayor good luck with it.

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Dunkirk Evening Observer. September XX, 2021.

Editorial: Getting answers on marijuana laws

Decisions regarding retail marijuana sales within their borders or to allow for sales are being made throughout municipalities in Chautauqua County and New York state. Some communities, such as the towns of Gerry and the village of Cassadaga, have already opted out of allowing these types of establishments.

Tonight, however, is a chance to hear both sides of the issue. At 7 p.m. in the Fredonia Opera House, a forum regarding marijuana laws will be held. Included in the panel discussion are: Dr. R. Lorraine Collins, Ph.D., Associate Dean of Research with the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions; Penelope Hamilton Crescibene, executive director of WNY NORML; Brent Isaacson, chief, SUNY Fredonia University Police Department; and Melanie Witkowski, executive director, Prevention Works.

There is no charge for admittance to the forum. But if you do attend, facial coverings are required.

Most municipalities have until Dec. 31 to decide on what avenue to take regarding the regulations. Doing nothing means an acceptance while localities that wish to opt out must decide by the end of 2021.

Everyone has an opinion on this topic — there is no in between. Tonight’s event, however, should answer some questions.

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Auburn Citizen. September 14, 2021.

Editorial: Caution needed on New York’s health worker vaccine mandate

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul recently delayed implementation of a requirement that state employees get vaccinated against the coronavirus. The idea is to give the many varied workplaces some flexibility in preparing to fully reopen to staff as safely as possible. As the deadline nears on a similar mandate for health care workers, a similar pause may be required.

We agree in principle with having all health care workers vaccinated, because the goal is to make facilities as safe as they can be for patients and for the people who work there, but a big difference between the mandates for state workers and people in health care is that state workers will be given the option to undergo weekly testing to make sure they aren’t bringing the virus with them into their workplaces.

A similar option may be needed for health care workers, especially considering that already strained staffing levels pose an immediate threat to public health.

While it’s possible that anecdotal accounts of people saying they will quit rather than comply are being exaggerated, those concerns can’t be ignored, because a wave of resignations in health care fields would create an immediate crisis. Just last week, the resignation of six workers at Lewis County General Hospital forced the facility to temporarily shut down its maternity ward. Another 165 unvaccinated employees there had yet to declare whether or not they could comply with the mandate.

Hochul made the right choice in delaying the vaccine mandate for state workers, and she should similarly call for time out in this case. One bump in the road came up Tuesday when a federal judge temporarily blocked enforcing the mandate on workers who have religious exemptions to the vaccine.

State officials need to remain in close contact with health care facilities so that nobody is taken by surprise by potential sudden shifts in the workforce. A little more time should be taken now to ensure all the alternatives — and the potential consequences — have been considered. The best short-term compromise is to not only delay enforcement of the policy but also give vaccine-hesitant health care workers the option of weekly testing as a requirement to come to work.

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Albany Times Union. September 15, 2021.

Editorial: Eyes on Madison Avenue

Jane Jacobs, the famed champion of cities and chronicler of street life, wrote often about the importance of having “eyes on the street.”

The idea, wonderful in its common-sense simplicity, posits that streets with thriving businesses and crowded sidewalks are safer because they benefit from having people to watch and guard against bad behavior. It’s a reminder that economic development and public safety work in tandem.

We mention Ms. Jacobs because of complaints lodged by two Mansion neighborhood business owners who spoke to the Times Union’s Steve Hughes. Joe Abbruzzese and Jim Rua, who own the Hill Street Café and Café Capriccio, respectively, say their customers increasingly feel unsafe in the neighborhood. The business owners are begging the city for better lighting, more police and other changes in the neighborhood east of Empire State Plaza and the Executive Mansion.

They’re also hoping the city will use some of the $80.7 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds to improve Madison Avenue and the surrounding neighborhood.

Mr. Abbruzzese and Mr. Rua are certainly right that the neighborhood needs more attention from Mayor Kathy Sheehan’s administration. Too many of its blocks suffer from pockets of darkness, endemic drug dealing, garbage-strewn sidewalks and other issues affecting the residents’ quality of life.

Yet there’s something else the neighborhood badly needs: more businesses.

Consider that along Madison between Philip and South Pearl, a three-block stretch, there are roughly 15 vacant storefronts, not including an empty former McDonald’s and Grand Street Imports, a recently shuttered deli and grocery just off the main drag.

It would be difficult for any street with that much vacancy to feel safe, welcoming and vibrant. It is also a sad condition for a corridor that acts as one of the gateways to Albany, and which should serve as a shopping district for one of its more eclectic neighborhoods.

Of course, businesses will be reluctant to open in a neighborhood that feels unsafe. Yet the neighborhood is unlikely to feel safe so long as there are so many dark storefronts.

That conundrum highlights the need for a multipronged approach from City Hall, one that tackles crime while addressing the need for business development along Madison Avenue and in many other Albany neighborhoods. Given how vital the Mansion neighborhood and the adjacent South End are to the success of the city, spending to encourage new economic development there certainly seems a valid use of American Rescue Plan money.

We are pleased that the Sheehan administration is taking steps to address the concerns raised by Mr. Abbruzzese and Mr. Rua, including a beefed-up police presence. But anyone who walks Madison can see that more needs to be done.

The street needs more eyes closely watching, including some from within City Hall.

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Advance Media New York. September 9, 2021.

Editorial: Most unusual NY State Fair delivered more hits than misses

The 2021 New York State Fair, which ended on Labor Day, was like no other. Before it gets too far in the rear-view mirror, here are some of the fair’s hits and misses from our seat in the Skyliner high above the midway:

Hit: The fair happened.

Covid-19 canceled the 2020 fair. The pandemic is far from over, so the fact that the state was able to pull off a fair at all is no small matter. Yes, the crowds were lighter, and some of us liked it just fine that way. The lines were shorter, the food was fresher and the vendors were grateful for customers.

Miss: 18 days is too long.

After sinking millions into the fairgrounds over the past five years, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo was determined to bust attendance records year after year. In January 2020, Cuomo announced the 2020 fair would run for 18 days instead of 13 days. That schedule carried over to this year — and it was way too long. The state fair overlapped with the Erie County Fair in Western New York, forcing vendors to choose. Many vendors here said they had trouble filling jobs for the whole 18 days. Some decided to skip the fair altogether due to the labor shortage. The experiment was a bust. Gov. Kathy Hochul should shrink the fair back to 13 days.

Hit: Chevy Park concerts.

The new open-air concert stage on the far west corner of the fairgrounds turned out to be a great place to see a show. The musical acts drew tens of thousands of people each night. The lighting and sound were excellent. The relaxed vibe — fire pits and all — was even better.

Miss: Digital ticketing was balky.

The fair decided not to take cash at the gate to limit person-to-person contact and prevent the spread of COVID. The digital ticketing system that replaced it often was overwhelmed by the volume of fairgoers trying to buy tickets all at once. The ticketing system and the WiFi need upgrades before next year. Or just take cash.

Hit: Overall, the fair went pretty smoothly.

We can usually count on the fair to make some news: a malfunctioning midway ride, a fight, bus snafus, some bad weather or unforeseen controversy. Not this year. In spite of everything — or maybe because of it — there was very little drama. Kudos to fair Director Troy Waffner and his entire crew for pulling this one off with few hitches.

Now they can begin planning next year’s fair — one we hope will happen without the shadow of COVID hanging over it.

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