NY Gov. Hochul Signs Legislation to Create State Reparations Commission

California leads states in considering ways to atone for slavery and structural racism.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation Tuesday (Dec. 19) that creates a commission to study what reparations to Black New Yorkers would look like. 

“Nearly 400 years after the first enslaved Africans arrived in New York, the legacy of this injustice still holds us back. That’s why I just signed a law creating a Community Commission on Reparations that will study this legacy and make recommendations on the path forward,” Hochul wrote in a social media post. 

New York lawmakers passed the Reparations Commission bill in June. According to the measure, the first enslaved Africans arrived around the 1620s in what was then a Dutch settlement in Manhattan. They helped build New York City’s infrastructure, laying the foundation for wealth that they didn’t benefit from.

Rochester, N.Y., station WROC reports that Hochul discussed New York’s connection with the abolitionist movement, including the state’s connection to the Underground Railroad and embracing Black leaders of that era, such as Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass.

“What’s hard to embrace is that our state flourished from that slavery. It’s not a beautiful story, but indeed it is the truth. Today, I challenge all New Yorkers to be the patriots and rebuke and not excuse our role in benefitting from the institution of slavery,” Hochul said at a press conference.

State Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, the bill’s sponsor in the Assembly, told last December that she planned to “hit the ground running” in 2023 to push through the measure that previously failed to pass the legislature. 

New York Lawmakers To Renew Reparations Efforts For State Residents Who Descended From Slaves

She applauded Hochul on Tuesday (Dec. 19).

"In acknowledging New York's history, we confront the high cost of racial injustices. By Governor Hochul signing into effect the Reparations & Remedies Commission, New York State will empower communities to actively participate in shaping the essential path forward toward unity and healing,” Solages, chair of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus, said.

Under the legislation, the commission will examine federal and state historic support of slavery and address persistent economic, political and educational disparities Black New Yorkers experience today. The commissioners must deliver a report one year after their first meeting. 

Their recommendations on compensating Black residents could include cash payments, but state lawmakers would vote on the commission’s plan. 

“Reparations lay the groundwork for a future where all New Yorkers can thrive and prosper,” Solages added. “I commend the Legislature, the Governor, and advocates for their collaborative efforts. I am proud to have sponsored this legislation and eager to continue advancing together in shaping our shared future.”

10 Cities Considering Reparations To Atone For Slavery, Structural Racism

California was the first state to form a reparations task force. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation in 2020 to create the nine-member California Reparations Task Force, which sent its final report to Newsom and the state legislature in June.

Meanwhile, the reparations movement is gaining traction in cities across the nation. In 2019, Evanston, Ill., a Chicago suburb, became the first city to pass a reparations resolution for qualified Black residents. 

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