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A push from the burbs in NYC mayor's race

Congressman Thomas Suozzi, speaks during a press conference

Congressman Thomas Suozzi, speaks during a press conference at the Landmark on Main Street in Port Washington on Wednesday, March 31, 2021, Credit: James Carbone

Daily Point

Friday afternoon robocall

It’s rare that I pick up my landline – but during election season, I’m always intrigued as to who will be calling. As a Queens resident, I’ve been answering the phone a lot lately, as the New York City mayoral race heats up, leading up to the June 22 primary.

On Friday afternoon, in came a robocall. But this one was different, as it came from Rep. Tom Suozzi, who is supporting Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

The strange part? I don’t live in Suozzi’s congressional district.

As it turns out, I wasn’t alone. Suozzi senior adviser Kim Devlin said the call went Queens-wide.

Why would a congressman from Long Island, whose district includes a piece of eastern Queens, be important to a mayoral race?

Devlin noted that Suozzi has been an active presence in the borough even beyond the part his congressional district covers. And she said Suozzi has done events with Adams that extend past the district’s boundaries, too, including at a subway station in Flushing and at various spots across the city. She noted that he’s been active in the borough during his campaigns and during his time in office.

As for Suozzi’s pitch? The robocall focused on public safety, which has been a key issue in the campaign.

"My constituents really are interested in public safety and they’re interested in somebody who has traditional democratic values," Suozzi told The Point of his support of Adams. "He’ll push for police reform and public safety. He’ll push for low-income people but he’ll push for business. He’s got the right balance. And everything in his life experience has prepared him for this particular job at this particular time."

— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

New York's emancipation tale

As the nation prepares for its first federally recognized Juneteenth following President Joe Biden signing the commemoration into law Thursday, the varied history of how and when slavery ended across the United States is garnering new attention.

Juneteenth celebrates the day in 1865 when a Union general told enslaved Black residents of Galveston, Texas, they were now free, but it’s a catch-all for all the various dates freedom was attained or celebrated.

The occasion of Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation is one such date, and perhaps the most famous. But "Emancipation Day" has a special standing, too; April 16, 1862 was the day slaves were freed in the District of Columbia. And each state that ended slavery before 1863 has its own emancipation tale to tell.

So what’s New York’s?

The story of slavery in New York includes a strong sense in the state that the practice was intolerable, right from the beginning. The first 11 slaves, brought to New Amsterdam in 1626, were all eventually freed. In 1781, the state passed a law freeing any slave who had fought for at least three years for the colonists’ cause, or been honorably discharged from the American forces.

But the practice hung on stubbornly, leaving New York as the next-to-last Northern state to abolish the practice (New Jersey allowed slavery until the 13th Amendment barred it in 1865).

New York banned slavery in 1799 but did so via a time-release plan, the Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, that didn’t free a single living slave upon its passage. The law granted freedom only to slaves born after its passage, and still demanded they serve their mothers’ owners until they were 28 year old (for men) or 25 (for women) before receiving their freedom.

That law only served to redouble the efforts of abolitionists, and the loyal service of many Black New Yorkers, both slave and free, in the War of 1812, fueled the push for Black rights much as their Revolutionary War contributions had.

Then, in 1817, the state passed a law barring slavery forever … effective in 1827. The mechanism freed slaves born before 1799, and that in combination with the youngest Blacks born into slavery aging out of their servitude, essentially ended slavery in the Empire State.

And lawmakers, in the way they set the effective dates of those laws, made clear they knew exactly what Blacks had been denied in New York, and were being granted.

The date after which slaves had to be born to be guaranteed eventual freedom in the first law was July 4, 1799.

And the date by which the final emancipation law demanded all New York’s slaves be freed was July 4, 1827.

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point


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Data Point

Corporate stake in ‘clean slate’ push

Titans of finance and industry touting a criminal-justice reform bill might sound surprising.

But that’s the case in Albany where Jamie Dimon, chairman and chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, advocates sealing criminal records of those who have completed their sentences, except in cases of sexual crimes.

Dimon, who lived for part of his childhood in East Williston, is co-chair of a two-year-old national group called the Second Chance Business Coalition, which urges elected officials to back this kind of "clean slate" legislation.

Not that Dimon and his company would be ignoring their economic motives. In effect, they and executives of 29 other well-known corporations, from MacDonald’s to Target to Koch Industries, seek to expand the potential employee pool by joining the coalition..

JPMorgan contacted Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, to promote the New York version of "clean slate" legislation. "Petition-based expungement is costly, complicated and time consuming," JPMorgan stated in a letter circulated last month.

"In New York State," it said, "more than 600,000 people are eligible to have their records sealed, but very few pursue the complex process. This means that even after fulfilling their justice system obligations, people often continue to be blocked from fully participating in the economy."

JPMorgan says that in 2018, it hired 2,100 people with criminal records that "had no bearing on the requirements of the job they were seeking." About one in 10 of new company hires fit that category, they said.

The federal government, specifically the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, imposes restrictions on hiring those with past convictions in the banking sector. Those rules were eased somewhat last year.

Corporate clout behind a bill doesn’t guarantee immediate results at the state Capitol. The widely-supported measure, sponsored by Sen. Zellnor Myrie (D-Brooklyn) and Assemb. Catalina Cruz (D-Queens), got lost for some reason in the annual end-of-session fog after key lawmakers reached a compromise by which specified conviction records would be sealed rather than expunged.

Advocates still hope a clean-slate bill will win approval when the Legislature re-convenes in as soon as the next few weeks.

— Dan Janison @Danjanison

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