NYC considers reparations for black residents, removal of ‘racist’ public art amid flurry of legislation
The City Council is mulling a package of controversial bills that include weighing whether black New Yorkers deserve reparations for slavery, and another resurrecting a woke push to remove artwork they consider “racist” from public property.
Councilwoman Farah Louis (D-Brooklyn) introduced her reparations bill on Thursday – the same day the state Legislature in Albany approved a comparable bill.
That legislation, which has been sent to Gov. Kathy Hochul for consideration, would create a commission to study the effects of slavery and racial discrimination on the entire Empire State and potentially reward payments.
Louis’ reparations bill – which only covers the city — would create a nine-member task force that would be required to deliver a report one year after being appointed. Like the state bill, any recommendations would be non-binding and strictly advisory.
It is part of a larger legislative package introduced Thursday by some council members of color they said is aimed at “rectifying” historical “injustices.”
One measure by Crystal Hudson (D-Brooklyn) would require the city’s Commission of Racial Equity to create a “Truth, Healing, and Reconciliation” process that establishes “historical facts” about the city’s past use of slavery and then recommends changes for local government and institutions to “prevent recurrence” – even though New York abolished slavery more than two centuries ago, and lost more than 50,000 men while fighting to free slaves during the Civil War.
Another bill by fellow far-lefty Sandy Nurse (D-Brooklyn) would require the city’s Public Design Commission in consultation with city agencies to publicly release a “plan” to remove monuments and other art on city land it believes pays tribute to ex-slave owners or people who profited from slavery as well as anyone who committed “systemic” crimes against indigenous peoples or “against humanity.”
This bill would also require the city to install “explanatory” plaques on sidewalks or other public spaces near schools deemed by the commission and city agencies to be named after a person who profited from slavery or committed other “crimes against humanity.”
Former Mayor Bill de Blasio stirred up controversy when he created a commission in 2017 to review monuments across the five boroughs in the wake of violence by white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, Va. protesting the removal of a Confederate statue.
In the end, his panel suggested just one statue be removed from Central Park — that of Dr. J. Marion Sims, a pioneering 19th-century gynecologist who experimented on enslaved black women.
Louis didn’t return messages Friday but hailed the legislative package on Twitter, calling it “a significant stride towards rectifying long-standing injustices and recognizing the imperative for genuine reparations.
“It is essential that we confront the pain and inequalities of the past if we aspire to construct a fair and inclusive society,” she added.
The bills are already receiving staunch opposition from more moderate and conservative members of the Council, including Minority Leader Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) and Robert Holden (D-Queens).
“New York has a proud history of fighting against slavery and serving as a refuge for those seeking freedom,” Holden said. “Our focus should be on addressing today’s pressing issues of our city, rather than engaging in divisive debates over copycat bills that detract from the real problems we face.”
Borelli said, “I’ll leave the state before I pay a dime in taxes to compensate any New Yorker for a 200-year-old crime I didn’t commit.”
A rep for Mayor Adams said his office is reviewing the legislation.