Bill Text: NY A03080 | 2019-2020 | General Assembly | Amended

Bill Title: Relates to acknowledging the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the city of New York and the state of New York; establishes the New York state community commission on reparations remedies to examine the institution of slavery, subsequently de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, the impact of these forces on living African-Americans and to make recommendations on appropriate remedies; makes an appropriation therefor; and provides for the repeal of such provisions.

Spectrum: Partisan Bill (Democrat 32-0)

Status: (Introduced) 2019-06-14 - reported referred to ways and means [A03080 Detail]

Download: New_York-2019-A03080-Amended.html

                STATE OF NEW YORK
                               2019-2020 Regular Sessions
                   IN ASSEMBLY
                                    January 28, 2019
        Introduced  by M. of A. BARRON, PRETLOW, WRIGHT, DICKENS, AUBRY, WALKER,
          D'URSO, DILAN -- read once and referred to the  Committee  on  Govern-
          mental  Operations  --  committee  discharged,  bill  amended, ordered
          reprinted as amended and recommitted to said committee
        AN ACT to acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality  and
          inhumanity  of  slavery  in  the city of New York and the state of New
          York; to establish the New York state community commission on  repara-
          tions remedies, to examine the institution of slavery, subsequently de
          jure  and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-
          Americans, and the impact of these forces on living  African-Americans
          and to make determinations regarding compensation; making an appropri-
          ation  therefor;  and providing for the repeal of such provisions upon
          expiration thereof
          The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and  Assem-
        bly, do enact as follows:
     1    Section  1.  This act shall be known and may be cited as the "New York
     2  state community commission on reparations remedies".
     3    § 2. Legislative intent.  Contrary to what many people believe,  slav-
     4  ery  was  not  just  a southern institution. Prior to the American Revo-
     5  lution, there were more enslaved Africans in New York City than  in  any
     6  other city except Charleston, South Carolina. During this period, slaves
     7  accounted for 20% of the population of New York and approximately 40% of
     8  colonial  New York's households owned slaves. These slaves were an inte-
     9  gral part of the population which settled and developed what we now know
    10  as the state of New York.
    11    The first slaves arrived in New Amsterdam, a Dutch  settlement  estab-
    12  lished  at  the  southern  tip  of  Manhattan Island, around 1627. These
    13  enslaved Africans did not belong to  individuals,  but  worked  for  the
         EXPLANATION--Matter in italics (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
                              [ ] is old law to be omitted.

        A. 3080--A                          2
     1  Dutch  West  India Company. The Dutch East India Company had established
     2  Fort Amsterdam, a fortification located  on  the  southern  tip  of  the
     3  island  of  Manhattan,  for  the  purpose of defending the company's fur
     4  trade  operations  in the North River, now known as the Hudson River. In
     5  1624, New Amsterdam became a provincial extension of the Dutch  Republic
     6  and it was designated the capital of the province in 1625.
     7    These first enslaved Africans cleared forests, prepared land for agri-
     8  culture  and  built  an  infrastructure of roads, buildings and walls of
     9  timber and earthwork, including the wall  that  gives  Wall  Street  its
    10  name.  During  the following years, more and more enslaved Africans were
    11  brought to the New World for the purpose of expanding the settlement.
    12    New Amsterdam came under English control in 1664 and was  renamed  New
    13  York  in  honor  of the then Duke of York, in whose name the English had
    14  captured it. Three years later, the Dutch gave up  their  claim  to  the
    15  town  and  the  rest  of  the colony, in exchange for control of certain
    16  trade routes and areas.
    17    The change of control of the city did not deter  slavery;  it  was  an
    18  enormously profitable enterprise and it continued under the English. New
    19  York  businesses  engaged  directly  in  slave  trade  and  also  in the
    20  production of supplies used in the slave trade.    They  supplied  food,
    21  tools  and  grain  to slave plantations in North America and in the West
    22  Indies.  Slave labor built and maintained ships used for  trade  between
    23  North  America,  Europe, the Caribbean and Africa. Slaves produced goods
    24  for sale and worked in private homes.  Even  newspapers  benefited  from
    25  slavery:    advertisements of slaves for purchase were a major source of
    26  revenue for the papers during the eighteenth century.
    27    Life was repressive for enslaved Africans in New York.  The  New  York
    28  City  Common  Council  passed  a  number of restrictive laws designed at
    29  curtailing the rights and freedoms of slaves.  Slaves were  barred  from
    30  owning  significant  property  and from bequeathing what they did own to
    31  their children. The number of people of African descent who could gather
    32  in one place was limited. Restrictions on  movement  included  requiring
    33  slaves  to carry lanterns after dark and to remain in certain geographic
    34  areas.
    35    Penalties for breaking these and other  laws  were  severe.  Beatings,
    36  mutilations and executions were common.
    37    Enslaved Africans refused to submit to the slave existence. The condi-
    38  tions  of their lives gave rise to rebellions and the development in the
    39  city of a network of the Underground Railroad.
    40    Not all citizens of New York agreed with slavery.  A  powerful  aboli-
    41  tionist  movement  developed, but the end of slavery in New York did not
    42  come easily or quickly. Those who profited from the slave economy fought
    43  to maintain the system.
    44    In 1799 the New York state legislature passed "An Act for the  Gradual
    45  Abolition  of  Slavery". This legislation was a first step in the direc-
    46  tion of emancipation, but did not have an immediate effect or affect all
    47  slaves. Rather, it provided for gradual manumission. All  children  born
    48  to  slave  women after July 4, 1799 would be freed, but only after their
    49  most productive years: age 28 for men  and  age  25  for  women.  Slaves
    50  already  in  servitude  before July 4, 1799 were reclassified as "inden-
    51  tured servants", but in reality, remained slaves  for  the  duration  of
    52  their lives.
    53    In  1817,  the  Legislature enacted a statute that gave freedom to New
    54  York slaves who had been born before July 4, 1799. This statute did  not
    55  become effective until July 4, 1827, however.

        A. 3080--A                          3
     1    Despite  these laws, there were exceptions under which certain persons
     2  could still own slaves. Non-residents could enter New York  with  slaves
     3  for  up  to nine months, and allowing part-time residents to bring their
     4  slaves into the state temporarily. The  nine-months  exception  remained
     5  law  until  its repeal in 1841, when the North was re-defining itself as
     6  the "free" region in advance of the civil war.
     7    In 1991, a huge African burial ground was discovered in the  heart  of
     8  New  York's  financial district during construction of a skyscraper. The
     9  excavations that followed the termination of  the  construction  project
    10  yielded  the  skeletal  remains of 419 Africans, many of whom were women
    11  and children.
    12    The slavery that flourished in  the  New  York  state  constituted  an
    13  immoral  and  inhumane  deprivation  of Africans' life, liberty, African
    14  citizenship rights, and cultural heritage, and denied them the fruits of
    15  their own labor. Sufficient inquiry has not been made into  the  effects
    16  of the institution of slavery on living African-Americans and society in
    17  New York.
    18    §  3.  Establishment, purpose and duties of the commission.  a. Estab-
    19  lishment. There is hereby  established  the  New  York  state  community
    20  commission  on  reparations  remedies  (hereinafter  referred  to as the
    21  "commission").
    22    b. Duties. The commission shall perform the following duties:
    23    (1) Examine the institution of slavery which existed within the  state
    24  of  New  York  and in the city of New York. The commission's examination
    25  shall include an examination of:
    26    (A) the capture and procurement of Africans;
    27    (B) the transport of Africans to the United States  and  the  colonies
    28  that  became the United States for the purpose of enslavement, including
    29  their treatment during transport;
    30    (C) the sale and acquisition of Africans as chattel property in inter-
    31  state and intrastate commerce; and
    32    (D) the treatment of enslaved Africans in the city of New York and the
    33  state of New York, including the deprivation of their freedom, exploita-
    34  tion of their labor, and destruction of their culture,  language,  reli-
    35  gion, and families.
    36    (2)  Examine  the extent to which the federal and state governments of
    37  the United States supported the institution of slavery in constitutional
    38  and statutory provisions, including the extent to which such governments
    39  prevented, opposed, or restricted efforts of freed enslaved Africans  to
    40  repatriate to their homeland.
    41    (3)  Examine  federal  and state laws that discriminated against freed
    42  enslaved Africans and their descendants during the  period  between  the
    43  end of the Civil War and the present.
    44    (4)  Examine  other  forms of discrimination in the public and private
    45  sectors against freed enslaved Africans and their descendants during the
    46  period between the end of the Civil War and the present.
    47    (5) Examine the lingering negative effects of the institution of slav-
    48  ery and the matters described in paragraphs (1), (2), (3),  and  (4)  of
    49  this  subdivision  on  living  African-Americans  and  on society in the
    50  United States.
    51    (6) Recommend appropriate ways to educate the American public  of  the
    52  commission's findings.
    53    (7)  Recommend  appropriate  remedies  in consideration of the commis-
    54  sion's findings on the matters described in paragraphs  (1),  (2),  (3),
    55  and  (4) of this subdivision. The commission shall determine the form of

        A. 3080--A                          4
     1  compensation, the amount of compensation and who should be eligible  for
     2  such compensation.
     3    c.  Report  to  the legislature. The commission shall submit a written
     4  report of its findings and recommendations to the temporary president of
     5  the senate, the speaker of the assembly, the  minority  leaders  of  the
     6  senate  and  the assembly and the governor not later than the date which
     7  is one year after the date of the first meeting of the  commission  held
     8  pursuant to subdivision c of section four of this act.
     9    §  4.  Membership.  a.  The  commission  shall be composed of fourteen
    10  members who shall be appointed within 90 days after the  effective  date
    11  of this act, as follows:
    12    (1) one member shall be appointed by the governor;
    13    (2) one member shall be appointed by the speaker of the assembly;
    14    (3)  one  member  shall be appointed by the temporary president of the
    15  senate;
    16    (4) one member shall be appointed by the minority leader of the assem-
    17  bly;
    18    (5) one member shall be  appointed  by  the  minority  leader  of  the
    19  senate;
    20    (6)  three  members  shall  be  appointed by the National Coalition of
    21  Blacks for Reparations in America (N.C.O.B.R.A.);
    22    (7) three members shall be appointed by the  December  12th  Movement;
    23  and
    24    (8)  three members shall be appointed by Dr. Ron Daniels of the Insti-
    25  tute of the Black World.
    26    b. All members of the commission shall be persons who  are  especially
    27  qualified  to  serve  on  the  commission  by virtue of their education,
    28  training, or experience, particularly in the field  of  African-American
    29  studies.
    30    c.  First  meeting.  The  chair  shall  call  the first meeting of the
    31  commission within 120 days after the effective date of this act or with-
    32  in 30 days after the date on which legislation is enacted making  appro-
    33  priations to carry out this act, whichever date is later.
    34    d.  Quorum. Eight members of the commission shall constitute a quorum,
    35  but a lesser number may hold hearings.
    36    e. Chair and vice chair. The commission shall elect a Chair  and  Vice
    37  Chair  from  among its members. The term of office for each shall be for
    38  one year.
    39    f. Compensation. The  members  of  the  commission  shall  receive  no
    40  compensation  for their services as members, but shall be reimbursed for
    41  their actual and necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their
    42  duties.
    43    § 5. Powers of the commission.  a. Hearings and sessions. The  commis-
    44  sion  may,  for  the purpose of carrying out the provisions of this act,
    45  hold such hearings and sit and act at such times and at such  places  in
    46  the  United  States,  and  request  the attendance and testimony of such
    47  witnesses and the production of  such  books,  records,  correspondence,
    48  memoranda,  papers, and documents, as the commission considers appropri-
    49  ate.
    50    b. Powers of subcommittees and members. Any subcommittee or member  of
    51  the  commission  may,  if  authorized by the commission, take any action
    52  which the commission is authorized to take by this section.
    53    c. Obtaining official data. The commission may acquire  directly  from
    54  the  head of any department, agency, or instrumentality of the executive
    55  branch of the government, available  information  which  the  commission
    56  considers  useful in the discharge of its duties. All departments, agen-

        A. 3080--A                          5
     1  cies, and instrumentalities of the executive branch  of  the  government
     2  shall cooperate with the commission with respect to such information and
     3  shall  furnish all information requested by the commission to the extent
     4  permitted by law.
     5    §  6.  Administrative  provisions.    a.  Experts and consultants. The
     6  commission may procure through a competitive  process  the  services  of
     7  experts and consultants.
     8    b.  Administrative  support  services.  The  commission may enter into
     9  agreements with the commissioner of general services for procurement  of
    10  financial and administrative services necessary for the discharge of the
    11  duties  of  the  commission.  Payment for such services shall be made by
    12  reimbursement from funds of the commission in such  amounts  as  may  be
    13  agreed  upon  by  the  chair  of  the commission and the commissioner of
    14  general services.
    15    c. Contracts. The commission may:
    16    (1) procure supplies, services, and property by contract in accordance
    17  with applicable laws and regulations  and  to  the  extent  or  in  such
    18  amounts as are provided in appropriations acts; and
    19    (2) enter into contracts with departments, agencies, and instrumental-
    20  ities  of  the  federal  government,  state agencies, and private firms,
    21  institutions, and agencies, for the conduct of research or surveys,  the
    22  preparation of reports, and other activities necessary for the discharge
    23  of the duties of the commission, to the extent or in such amounts as are
    24  provided in appropriations acts.
    25    §  7.  Termination.  The  commission shall terminate 90 days after the
    26  date on which the commission submits its report to the temporary  presi-
    27  dent of the senate, the speaker of the assembly, the minority leaders of
    28  the  senate and the assembly and the governor as provided in subdivision
    29  c of section three of this act.
    30    § 8. The performance of the commission's duties, purposes  and  objec-
    31  tives  shall  be executed within amounts made available by appropriation
    32  therefor.
    33    § 9. The sum of two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250,000),  or  so
    34  much thereof as may be necessary, is hereby appropriated to the New York
    35  state community commission to study reparations remedies from any moneys
    36  in  the  state treasury in the general fund, not otherwise appropriated,
    37  for the purposes of carrying out the provisions of this  act.  Such  sum
    38  shall  be payable on the audit and warrant of the state chair of the New
    39  York state community commission to study reparations remedies, or his or
    40  her duly designated representative in the manner provided by law.
    41    § 10. This act shall take effect immediately and shall expire  and  be
    42  deemed repealed 30 days after the New York state community commission to
    43  study reparations remedies submits its report to the temporary president
    44  of  the senate, the speaker of the assembly, the minority leaders of the
    45  senate and the assembly and the governor as provided in subdivision c of
    46  section three of this act; provided that, the  chair  of  the  New  York
    47  state  community  commission  to study reparations remedies shall notify
    48  the legislative bill drafting commission  upon  the  submission  of  its
    49  report  as  provided  in  subdivision  c of section three of this act in
    50  order that the commission may maintain an accurate and timely  effective
    51  data  base  of the official text of the laws of the state of New York in
    52  furtherance of effecting the provisions of section 44 of the legislative
    53  law and section 70-b of the public officers law.