New York’s restrictive gun laws didn’t stop the Buffalo shooter

“In 2019, New York enacted an extreme risk prevention law, otherwise known as a “red flag law,” that can bar individuals who are believed to pose a danger to themselves or others from possessing firearms. New York state police decided not to invoke that law against the Buffalo shooter, who didn’t have a previous criminal record, but had made serious threats of violence. On Wednesday, Hochul issued an executive order requiring police to do so going forward.”

“She also called on the state legislature to pass bills that would require police to report guns associated with crimes within 24 hours and mandate that semiautomatic pistols sold in New York be microstamped so that law enforcement can link cartridges found at crime scenes to the gun that fired them. And she announced the creation of a dedicated domestic terrorism unit within the state police, along with efforts to investigate social media companies that have provided platforms for hate speech.

The goal is to ensure that people like the Buffalo shooter don’t fall through the cracks again. When the shooter was 17, he said that he wanted to commit murder-suicide at his high school. He was required to undergo a psychological evaluation and referred to police, who decided not to take further action for reasons still unknown. So when he turned 18, there was nothing preventing him from legally purchasing a weapon. And he did. The weapon he used in the shooting was purchased from a store in Endicott, New York: a Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle that he illegally modified to increase its capacity.

Under New York’s red flag law, that never should have happened.”

New York Just Cost Democrats Their Big Redistricting Advantage

“On Wednesday, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the congressional map New York Democrats enacted back in February was a partisan gerrymander that violated the state constitution and tossed it to the curb. The decision was a huge blow to Democrats, who until recently looked like they had gained enough seats nationally in redistricting to almost eliminate the Republican bias in the House of Representatives. But with the invalidation of New York’s map, as well as Florida’s recent passage of a congressional map that heavily favors the GOP,1 the takeaways from the 2021-22 redistricting cycle are no longer so straightforward.

That’s because much of Democrats’ national redistricting advantage rested on their gerrymander in New York.”

“There are still congressional maps that could get struck down in court, like Florida’s. And there are still states that have yet to finalize a map — like, oh yeah, New York!

In its decision, the New York Court of Appeals endorsed the idea that a neutral special master — essentially, an expert in drawing political maps — should draw New York’s next congressional map. That would presumably lead to a relatively fair map, but the details and exact partisan breakdown are, of course, still a mystery; Democrats could still gain seats from New York’s map when all is said and done (just not as many as from their gerrymander).”

The New Identity Politics of Eric Adams

“He likes, and is liked by, both of his immediate predecessors, Bill de Blasio and Mike Bloomberg, two former mayors who happen to repel one another. He was a victim of police brutality as a teenager who then became a cop, who then became a critic of the department’s treatment of Black cops, who then became the most pro-cop candidate in the 2021 mayor’s race. He has made crime his top priority, while also keeping at least some social justice and progressive allies by his side. He has said he will meet with anybody, however unsavory the character, but rejects the idea that he might be unsavory by association. He does not identify as a technocrat or an ideologue. His aides describe his goal as reversing inequality citywide — but his agenda is best understood as a desire to restore something more ephemeral to his hometown: a feeling, a sense of confidence. He wants, simply stated, “to reenergize the spirit of New York.”

In a city of weird people and weird mayors, Adams is maybe the most idiosyncratic figure to ever hold the office. And yet he has presented himself as a national model, a new brand of politics for others to emulate, built on the notion that you can be two or more things at once. If this is a good model for his party, torn in an existential crisis about what it means to be progressive or a moderate, establishment or anti-establishment, it’s a hard one to replicate. He is telling politicians they don’t have to choose. They can, in fact, be everything, assuming they want to be. Adams has called himself the new “face of the Democratic Party,” and it’s one of the few labels he is willing to embrace, but there’s no easy way to nail down what it will mean today, tomorrow, or the day after that. It’s an instruction manual where all the parts fit in all the sockets. By his own description, Adams is “perfectly imperfect,” embracing his many facets as a feature rather than a bug — and thus leaving open the possibility for … well, anything.”

“Adams has spent his early days in office trying to restore public safety. Born in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and raised in South Jamaica, Queens, he was arrested and beaten by NYPD officers at the age of 15, after he and his brother stole from a prostitute who had failed to pay Adams back for errands he’d run for her while she was injured, according a retelling of the story in the Atlantic. “He has lived a lot of regular life experiences — unfortunate ones,” said Adam Clayton Powell IV, a friend and former state assemblymember, “but ones that have built his character and have made him who he is.” Crime, and his own history with it, was the centerpiece of the Adams campaign, and it was enough to set him apart from a field of dozen rivals. But the mayor has national ambitions, too, though they are not as easily defined as, say, a presidential run, or an ideological crusade. Instead, he wants the party to free itself of litmus tests, lanes and labels.

“Politics is about reaching inside somebody and telling them something about themselves,” said Evan Thies, a senior campaign adviser who still helps manage Adams’ politics. “And the way Eric is doing that is by saying, ‘Look, I’m unapologetic about who I am — and who I am is multitudes. Who you are is multitudes.’ You don’t have to be a narrow version of yourself. By pushing back when anyone tells him he can’t be that person, he makes people feel comfortable about themselves.”

During the campaign, it didn’t take long for Adams to notice that while he restated a simple message tied to his own story — “public safety is a prerequisite to prosperity” — the other candidates were, in his estimation, trying to be “heard” rather than “felt” on policy and politics. “Look at the people I ran against. They were scholars. They were extremely bright. Maya Wiley, Shaun Donovan. Uh, for God sakes, Ray McGuire! I sat down in a restaurant with Ray McGuire, and he ordered a complete meal, speaking French. I’m like, ‘Damn,’” he says. “But Democrats need to start wanting to be felt. You go into these meetings and people start saying, ‘I passed bill HR such-and-such,’ and, ‘Do you know the Child Safety Act?’ It’s just not resonating with people.””

New York is about to let noncitizens vote. It could reshape local politics forever.

“a national movement to give voting rights to legal noncitizens has found its way to the country’s most populous city and, pending court battles, will soon give those immigrants the chance to shape local elections.
About 800,000 green card holders and others authorized to work in the country will become eligible to vote for mayor, City Council and other local offices. New York is by far the largest city to make such a move.

The impact on local elections could potentially be far-reaching. The city’s electorate consists of just under 5 million active registered voters, meaning a major push to register immigrants and get them to the polls could reshape politics in New York. Voting blocs like the one that elected Linares could have the power to affect the outcome of not just City Council races but even the next mayoral race.

Proponents say noncitizen voting will give more political clout to communities whose concerns have often been overlooked, and force candidates and elected officials to be responsive to a broader swath of the population. Opponents — who are challenging the law in court — predict it could be a logistical nightmare, and charge the increased influence for immigrant voters could come at the expense of U.S.-born Black voters.”

“New York wasn’t alone in allowing some form of noncitizen voting in years past: as many as 40 states practiced it at some point from the 18th century through the early 20th century, according to research by Ron Hayduk, a professor at San Francisco State University who has studied noncitizen voting, including the New York school board election. The practice was abolished in the last of those states nearly a hundred years ago.”

N.Y. Can’t Teach Kids To Read on $30,000

“In New York, where I live, real per-pupil revenue has increased by a mind-boggling 68 percent between 2002 and 2019. Public schools in the Empire State are now shelling out more than $30,000 per kid. That’s more than double the national average, and it doesn’t even include the $16 billion extra that New York’s system got in combined federal and state COVID-19 relief funding.

Yet New York’s public schools are still as terrible as the Mets, the Jets, and the Giants, with only a third or fewer of students up to grade level in eighth grade reading and math, according to their scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), widely considered the gold standard for judging school outcomes. Those scores aren’t much different than they were 20 years ago.

In fact, $30,000 a year puts the lie to the argument pushed by unions and progressives that more money will fix schools. More money hasn’t helped the rest of the country boost their scores either. According to NAEP, whatever minor improvements in reading and math that were made for students ages 9 and 13 since the early 1970s have flattened since the early 2000s. We’re paying more for the same results.

None of this is a mystery. The connection between bigger spending and good outcomes is weak at best, whether we’re talking about comparisons among U.S. states or international ones.”

Will New York Copy California’s Most Successful Housing Reform?

“In a truly rare turn of events, California’s successful approach to legalizing more types of housing is serving as inspiration for reforms elsewhere in the country.

Over the past several years, lawmakers in the Golden State have passed a suite of bills that make it much easier for homeowners to build accessory dwelling units (ADUs), sometimes called granny flats or in-law suites, on their property, while also making it harder for local governments to stop such construction.

It’s proven to be one of the few YIMBY (yes, in my backyard)-inspired zoning reforms that has actually led to more housing being built. Now other states and cities with their own affordability crunches are passing or considering their own ADU deregulations.

Last week, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, released her 200-page State of the State legislative agenda. Among other things, it took a swipe at local rules that prevent homeowners from turning their garage or attic into a new housing unit.

ADUs “can provide an affordable multi-generational housing option that helps families live closer together,” reads the State of the State book. “Current land use restrictions prevent homeowners in some communities from building ADUs.”

The governor’s agenda says she’ll propose legislation that would require localities to allow at least one ADU on owner-occupied residential lots. This legislation, per the agenda, would also prevent localities from adopting rules that legalize ADUs on paper, but prevent their construction in practice.

That reflects a lesson learned from California’s ADU experience, where state laws allowing homeowners to build a backyard apartment have technically been on the books since the 1980s.

For decades, however, cities were able to stop them from being built by imposing infeasible requirements that they come with off-street parking, be a minimum size, or receive special, discretionary permits in order to be built.

It took the passage of several additional bills between 2016 and 2019 limiting what localities could require of ADUs, and then several lawsuits to actually enforce those new rules, to really kick off new ADU construction.

The results have been pretty amazing so far.”

“To be sure, neither California’s nor New York’s high housing costs are going to be completely solved by more granny flats. But these reforms are an important piece of the puzzle.”

De Blasio tells Biden: New York needs help now

“Outgoing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is urging the Biden administration to send help as the Covid-19 Omicron variant rises dramatically in the city’s five boroughs.

The variant’s lightning-fast spread in the city forced the cancellation of Radio City Music Hall’s annual “Christmas Spectacular” over the weekend and led Saturday Night Live to broadcast without a live studio audience and with a smaller cast.

De Blasio said the White House should invoke the Defense Production Act to help provide a larger number of at-home tests as well as monoclonal antibody treatments. He also said the Biden administration should fast-track approval of an antiviral pill from Pfizer.

“We need help now … and we need a surge of support in terms of monoclonal antibody treatments,” de Blasio said at a briefing on Sunday. “We need more made available for New York City.””

New York City’s Bryant Park Was a Hot Mess. Then It Was Privatized.

“There is ice skating, pingpong, juggling lessons, yoga lessons…all for free.

Two attendants clean the bathrooms 30 times a day, and the bathrooms are furnished with flowers and paintings. Speakers play classical music.

This is a huge difference from 37 years ago, when Bryant Park was filled with vagrants and trash. It was then that urban redeveloper Dan Biederman managed to persuade city politicians to let him try to run the park.

He got money from local businesses and tried innovative things, like playing music in the bathrooms.

“It’s just another element, along with flowers, recessed lighting, and artwork, that makes people think they’re going to be safe,” says Biederman in my new video.

Safety is important because crime is up.

But there’s little crime in Bryant Park because crime thrives in dark corners, and this park is filled with people.

Plus little businesses like Joe Coffee Co. and Le Pain Quotidien. They pay for the park. Some people object to that.

“A park isn’t supposed to be about business!” they say.

Biederman responds, “In the current state of things you can’t have ‘passive spaces.’ Too many people are circulating who are violent or emotionally disturbed.”

To discourage such people, he fills his park businesses and activities—like the juggling lessons. When lots of people are in a park, he says, vagrancy is less of a problem.

Still, he sometimes must deal with troubled people. The worst, he says, are people who take the drug K2 and suddenly get so hot that they take their clothes off.

Our guards “guide them out of the park,” says Biederman.

It all works. Twelve million people visit Bryant Park every year, and none of it costs taxpayers a penny. Actually, the city makes money, says Biederman, because “the increased real estate taxes paid by the surrounding buildings—it’s $33 million a year.””