Dec. 19, 2023 By Ethan Stark-Miller
New York state will establish a committee to study the provision of reparations to descendants of enslaved New Yorkers under legislation that Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law Tuesday.
The newly created “New York State Community Commission on Reparations Remedies” will be charged with studying the institution of slavery in the Empire State, which existed until 1827, its subsequent impacts on African American New Yorkers and figure out the best way to rectify those impacts for living descendants of enslaved people. The nine member commission will be comprised of picks by the governor, state Senate majority leader and Assembly speaker — who will each get three appointments.
Hochul said the legislation will help “right the wrongs” of the past, during the Dec. 19 bill signing ceremony at the New York Historical Society on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
“By signing this bill today, I’m authorizing the creation of a commission committee to study what reparations might look like in New York,” Hochul said. “This bill makes it possible to have a conversation, a reasoned debate about what we want the future to look like and I can think of nothing more democratic than that.”
The measure, which Long Island Assembly Member and Queens state Sen. James Sanders Jr. sponsored, passed the state legislature earlier this year.
The committee’s work to remedy the injustices of the past will be beneficial to all New Yorkers, the governor said.
“If this committee can present a viable path forward to helping the descendants of New York slaves and addressing the harms and disparities that exist in education, that exist in housing, exist in health care, that exist in the environment, that my friends will lift all of us up,” Hochul said. “It’ll strengthen our economy. It’ll strengthen our communities. It’ll strengthen the bonds that bring us closer together.”
Rev. Al Sharpton, who was also in attendance Tuesday, credited Hochul with having the “courage and audacity” to do what her predecessors would not in creating the commission. He made it clear that the formation of the panel is not cutting a blank check to descendents of slavery, but rather the start of the healing process.
“Some of the media will act as though [the governor] met us here and she gave all of us a check for billions of dollars,” Sharpton said. “But that’s not what this is. This is the beginning of healing the scars, like the scar on my chest, because we can never be one state unless we heal the scars.”