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Middle and High school students return to class

Middle and High school students return to class on the first day of school at the Jericho school district Thursday. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Daily Point

NY gets free mandate advice

Gov. Kathy Hochul recommitted to her plans for a mask mandate on Thursday, telling people: "Get used to it, my friends!"

But as of Friday afternoon, the day after some schools started on Long Island, neither the state Health Department nor Hochul’s office had issued further regulations or details.

And it remained unclear how and whether vaccine mandates for teachers and staff, as Hochul also has advocated, would move forward.

In response to The Point’s inquiries regarding the legal authority on such mandates, and how they should work, the state Attorney General’s Office, meanwhile, directed all questions back to the governor’s office.

But at least one legal voice did provide some clarity Friday, when the New York State Bar Association emerged with its own new guidance, including recommendations that every employer in the state require its workers to be vaccinated and that all teachers, professors, staff and eligible students should be required to get the vaccine to work in or attend school. The association also recommended that the State Legislature require the COVID-19 vaccine for elementary school children after the vaccine is approved and available to them.

The Bar Association is planning a webinar for Sept. 3 directed at employers interested in mandating the vaccine.

The association said masks, too, should be required "for everyone who enters an education facility across the state." And the association endorsed the state Health Department’s order and regulations requiring health care workers to be vaccinated.

"The science and the law are on our side in this effort…" T. Andrew Brown, the president of the Bar Association, said in a statement.

The association’s report details a legal argument permitting vaccine mandates, saying "it is constitutional for the states to act under their police powers to take measures necessary to control the spread of the virus. In so doing, the states may constitutionally mandate vaccination for participation in social, educational and employment contexts."

If state officials were looking for outside advice on how to implement mask and vaccine mandates, they just got some for free.

— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

Refuge in New York

At least one family of refuge-seekers appears to be en route from Afghanistan to New York, Assemb. Patricia Fahy said in a Friday news conference.

The upstate Democrat was describing her office’s efforts to help a family whose father had been killed years ago by the Taliban and whose mother lives outside Albany. Multiple children in this family had been stranded in Afghanistan and Fahy had just received word that after repeated attempts to get to the airport, they were "safely on a plane."

Those individuals would be among a small group of people fleeing Afghanistan who recently resettled in New York. Between October 2020 and July 2021, 458 refugees have resettled throughout the state, according to New York’s Refugee Services. That includes over 200 Afghans, some on special immigrant visas.

In the last year, many of them have ended up in Erie, Onondaga, Oneida, Albany, and Monroe counties, as well as NYC, according to the state agency that oversees refugee work.

It’s unclear exactly how many more people fleeing Afghanistan will be arriving in New York, when, or where. "Right now, I know it’s a few hundred in the works," Fahy estimated.

Some have made it to Long Island in recent years, with a concentration of new Afghan immigrant communities in the North Bay Shore area and Hicksville, says Carmen Maquilon, director of immigrant and refugee services at Catholic Charities of Long Island, which would help with social work, cultural orientation, and other forms of assistance for the newcomers.

Refugee arrivals were curtailed during the Trump administration, and the politics of resettlement remain contentious, though President Joe Biden has signaled a willingness to accept thousands of Afghans.

Beyond the moral argument, some Democrats like Fahy make the case that refugees and immigrants bring benefits, "helping to repopulate our cities and renovate our aging housing infrastructure."

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Free-ER

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/nationalcartoons

Final Point

'Communities of interest' are showing interest

Ordinary citizens and wonks alike may wish to fasten their seat belts. By the middle of next month the New York State Independent Redistricting Commission is due to release an initial proposal for new congressional, Assembly and Senate district lines.

Following that, the 10-member panel will hold a new round of hearings statewide to allow public response. It’s a phased-in process that precedes approval and input from the legislature for a plan to take effect next year.

But first the panel chose to solicit comments region by region in a "listening tour." Last month, in the Long Island session, they heard from residents of Bayville, Sayville, Hicksville, Smithtown, and the Five Towns, to name just a few, followed with particular attention by commission vice chair Jack Martins, the former state senator from Nassau County.

Two weeks ago a catchall hearing wrapped up that phase, which included more voices from the region. One local example: Aubrey Phillips, president of the Parkhurst Civic Association in Elmont, said that a fair redrawing could do nothing less than help stop democracy from "hemorrhaging." Specifically he spoke of how a 3.4-square-mile hamlet had seven elected officials representing it, including three state senators, making it nearly impossible to schedule a single meeting with them.

The most recent release of U.S. Census Bureau figures also brought several voices underscoring the sharp spike in New York City’s Asian American numbers since 2010, particularly in Queens and Brooklyn. David Lee, chairman of the League of Asian Americans of New York, noted how Brooklyn neighborhoods that were strongholds for Democratic mayoral primary candidate Andrew Yang in June have no Asian representatives in Congress, the City Council, or either house of the State Legislature. Yet the numbers of Asians reported by the Census in that borough grew 43%, to 420,000.

Two residents of "little Manila" in Woodside, Queens, spoke of how current districting divides Filipino communities. Mahtab Khan, of the Muslim Democratic Club of New York City, spoke of how the 24th Assembly District could become, with district lines updated, a majority South Asian district.

The "communities of interest" cited as worth being kept whole on political maps weren’t entirely ethnic or religious: One resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side criticized how three square miles there were divided into four different Senate districts. On Long Island, there was testimony in favor of keeping villages, towns and school districts together and not marrying Nassau districts to bordering city districts.

Gerrymandering is the practice of contorting districts to enforce the interests of party leaders and legislators. The declared goal of "independent" redistricting means fair representation with sensible lines. One age-old method of gerrymandering, however, is to jam members of one community, party, or racial group into "their own" separate electoral domains, thus containing their influence in the wider legislative body.

Judging by vocal reaction to the status quo, however, those calling for change are more concerned with uniting identifiable groups in closer-knit state districts. Congressional issues seemed to receive less comment, although that should change once the first maps come out, and we’ll see if dispersal or ghettoization by party, local jurisdiction or race becomes the bigger concern on that front.

— Dan Janison @Danjanison

Programming Point

The Point is taking the week off and will be back Sept. 7.

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