S02904 Summary:

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.
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S02904 Actions:

04/17/2019PRINT NUMBER 2904A
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S02904 Committee Votes:

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S02904 Floor Votes:

There are no votes for this bill in this legislative session.
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S02904 Text:

                STATE OF NEW YORK
                               2019-2020 Regular Sessions
                    IN SENATE
                                    January 30, 2019
        Introduced by Sens. SANDERS, PARKER, SEPULVEDA -- read twice and ordered
          printed,  and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Finance
          -- 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
    14  Dutch West India Company. The Dutch East India Company  had  established
    15  Fort  Amsterdam,  a  fortification  located  on  the southern tip of the
    16  island of Manhattan, for the purpose  of  defending  the  company's  fur
         EXPLANATION--Matter in italics (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
                              [ ] is old law to be omitted.

        S. 2904--A                          2
     1  trade  operations  in the North River, now known as the Hudson River. In
     2  1624, New Amsterdam became a provincial extension of the Dutch  Republic
     3  and it was designated the capital of the province in 1625.
     4    These first enslaved Africans cleared forests, prepared land for agri-
     5  culture  and  built  an  infrastructure of roads, buildings and walls of
     6  timber and earthwork, including the wall  that  gives  Wall  Street  its
     7  name.  During  the following years, more and more enslaved Africans were
     8  brought to the New World for the purpose of expanding the settlement.
     9    New Amsterdam came under English control in 1664 and was  renamed  New
    10  York  in  honor  of the then Duke of York, in whose name the English had
    11  captured it. Three years later, the Dutch gave up  their  claim  to  the
    12  town  and  the  rest  of  the colony, in exchange for control of certain
    13  trade routes and areas.
    14    The change of control of the city did not deter  slavery;  it  was  an
    15  enormously profitable enterprise and it continued under the English. New
    16  York  businesses  engaged  directly  in  slave  trade  and  also  in the
    17  production of supplies used in the slave trade.    They  supplied  food,
    18  tools  and  grain  to slave plantations in North America and in the West
    19  Indies.  Slave labor built and maintained ships used for  trade  between
    20  North  America,  Europe, the Caribbean and Africa. Slaves produced goods
    21  for sale and worked in private homes.  Even  newspapers  benefited  from
    22  slavery:    advertisements of slaves for purchase were a major source of
    23  revenue for the papers during the eighteenth century.
    24    Life was repressive for enslaved Africans in New York.  The  New  York
    25  City  Common  Council  passed  a  number of restrictive laws designed at
    26  curtailing the rights and freedoms of slaves.  Slaves were  barred  from
    27  owning  significant  property  and from bequeathing what they did own to
    28  their children. The number of people of African descent who could gather
    29  in one place was limited. Restrictions on  movement  included  requiring
    30  slaves  to carry lanterns after dark and to remain in certain geographic
    31  areas.
    32    Penalties for breaking these and other  laws  were  severe.  Beatings,
    33  mutilations and executions were common.
    34    Enslaved Africans refused to submit to the slave existence. The condi-
    35  tions  of their lives gave rise to rebellions and the development in the
    36  city of a network of the Underground Railroad.
    37    Not all citizens of New York agreed with slavery.  A  powerful  aboli-
    38  tionist  movement  developed, but the end of slavery in New York did not
    39  come easily or quickly. Those who profited from the slave economy fought
    40  to maintain the system.
    41    In 1799 the New York state legislature passed "An Act for the  Gradual
    42  Abolition  of  Slavery". This legislation was a first step in the direc-
    43  tion of emancipation, but did not have an immediate effect or affect all
    44  slaves. Rather, it provided for gradual manumission. All  children  born
    45  to  slave  women after July 4, 1799 would be freed, but only after their
    46  most productive years: age 28 for men  and  age  25  for  women.  Slaves
    47  already  in  servitude  before July 4, 1799 were reclassified as "inden-
    48  tured servants", but in reality, remained slaves  for  the  duration  of
    49  their lives.
    50    In  1817,  the  Legislature enacted a statute that gave freedom to New
    51  York slaves who had been born before July 4, 1799. This statute did  not
    52  become effective until July 4, 1827, however.
    53    Despite  these laws, there were exceptions under which certain persons
    54  could still own slaves. Non-residents could enter New York  with  slaves
    55  for  up  to nine months, and allowing part-time residents to bring their
    56  slaves into the state temporarily. The  nine-months  exception  remained

        S. 2904--A                          3
     1  law  until  its repeal in 1841, when the North was re-defining itself as
     2  the "free" region in advance of the civil war.
     3    In  1991,  a huge African burial ground was discovered in the heart of
     4  New York's financial district during construction of a  skyscraper.  The
     5  excavations  that  followed  the termination of the construction project
     6  yielded the skeletal remains of 419 Africans, many of  whom  were  women
     7  and children.
     8    The  slavery  that  flourished  in  the  New York state constituted an
     9  immoral and inhumane deprivation of  Africans'  life,  liberty,  African
    10  citizenship rights, and cultural heritage, and denied them the fruits of
    11  their  own  labor. Sufficient inquiry has not been made into the effects
    12  of the institution of slavery on living African-Americans and society in
    13  New York.
    14    § 3. Establishment, purpose and duties of the commission.   a.  Estab-
    15  lishment.  There  is  hereby  established  the  New York state community
    16  commission on reparations  remedies  (hereinafter  referred  to  as  the
    17  "commission").
    18    b. Duties. The commission shall perform the following duties:
    19    (1)  Examine the institution of slavery which existed within the state
    20  of New York and in the city of New York.  The  commission's  examination
    21  shall include an examination of:
    22    (A) the capture and procurement of Africans;
    23    (B)  the  transport  of Africans to the United States and the colonies
    24  that became the United States for the purpose of enslavement,  including
    25  their treatment during transport;
    26    (C) the sale and acquisition of Africans as chattel property in inter-
    27  state and intrastate commerce; and
    28    (D) the treatment of enslaved Africans in the city of New York and the
    29  state of New York, including the deprivation of their freedom, exploita-
    30  tion  of  their labor, and destruction of their culture, language, reli-
    31  gion, and families.
    32    (2) Examine the extent to which the federal and state  governments  of
    33  the United States supported the institution of slavery in constitutional
    34  and statutory provisions, including the extent to which such governments
    35  prevented,  opposed, or restricted efforts of freed enslaved Africans to
    36  repatriate to their homeland.
    37    (3) Examine federal and state laws that  discriminated  against  freed
    38  enslaved  Africans  and  their descendants during the period between the
    39  end of the Civil War and the present.
    40    (4) Examine other forms of discrimination in the  public  and  private
    41  sectors against freed enslaved Africans and their descendants during the
    42  period between the end of the Civil War and the present.
    43    (5) Examine the lingering negative effects of the institution of slav-
    44  ery  and  the  matters described in paragraphs (1), (2), (3), and (4) of
    45  this subdivision on living  African-Americans  and  on  society  in  the
    46  United States.
    47    (6)  Recommend  appropriate ways to educate the American public of the
    48  commission's findings.
    49    (7) Recommend appropriate remedies in  consideration  of  the  commis-
    50  sion's  findings  on  the matters described in paragraphs (1), (2), (3),
    51  and (4) of this subdivision. The commission shall determine the form  of
    52  compensation,  the amount of compensation and who should be eligible for
    53  such compensation.
    54    c. Report to the legislature. The commission shall  submit  a  written
    55  report of its findings and recommendations to the temporary president of
    56  the  senate,  the  speaker  of the assembly, the minority leaders of the

        S. 2904--A                          4

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

        S. 2904--A                          5
     1    § 6. Administrative provisions.    a.  Experts  and  consultants.  The
     2  commission  may  procure  through  a competitive process the services of
     3  experts and consultants.
     4    b.  Administrative  support  services.  The  commission may enter into
     5  agreements with the commissioner of general services for procurement  of
     6  financial and administrative services necessary for the discharge of the
     7  duties  of  the  commission.  Payment for such services shall be made by
     8  reimbursement from funds of the commission in such  amounts  as  may  be
     9  agreed  upon  by  the  chair  of  the commission and the commissioner of
    10  general services.
    11    c. Contracts. The commission may:
    12    (1) procure supplies, services, and property by contract in accordance
    13  with applicable laws and regulations  and  to  the  extent  or  in  such
    14  amounts as are provided in appropriations acts; and
    15    (2) enter into contracts with departments, agencies, and instrumental-
    16  ities  of  the  federal  government,  state agencies, and private firms,
    17  institutions, and agencies, for the conduct of research or surveys,  the
    18  preparation of reports, and other activities necessary for the discharge
    19  of the duties of the commission, to the extent or in such amounts as are
    20  provided in appropriations acts.
    21    §  7.  Termination.  The  commission shall terminate 90 days after the
    22  date on which the commission submits its report to the temporary  presi-
    23  dent of the senate, the speaker of the assembly, the minority leaders of
    24  the  senate and the assembly and the governor as provided in subdivision
    25  c of section three of this act.
    26    § 8. The performance of the commission's duties, purposes  and  objec-
    27  tives  shall  be executed within amounts made available by appropriation
    28  therefor.
    29    § 9. The sum of two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250,000),  or  so
    30  much thereof as may be necessary, is hereby appropriated to the New York
    31  state community commission to study reparations remedies from any moneys
    32  in  the  state treasury in the general fund, not otherwise appropriated,
    33  for the purposes of carrying out the provisions of this  act.  Such  sum
    34  shall  be payable on the audit and warrant of the state chair of the New
    35  York state community commission to study reparations remedies, or his or
    36  her duly designated representative in the manner provided by law.
    37    § 10. This act shall take effect immediately and shall expire  and  be
    38  deemed repealed 30 days after the New York state community commission to
    39  study reparations remedies submits its report to the temporary president
    40  of  the senate, the speaker of the assembly, the minority leaders of the
    41  senate and the assembly and the governor as provided in subdivision c of
    42  section three of this act; provided that, the  chair  of  the  New  York
    43  state  community  commission  to study reparations remedies shall notify
    44  the legislative bill drafting commission  upon  the  submission  of  its
    45  report  as  provided  in  subdivision  c of section three of this act in
    46  order that the commission may maintain an accurate and timely  effective
    47  data  base  of the official text of the laws of the state of New York in
    48  furtherance of effecting the provisions of section 44 of the legislative
    49  law and section 70-b of the public officers law.
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