The Weekly WrapThe Weekly Wrap

The Weekly Wrap: New York State To Study Reparations

Also: How the state is responding to wildfire smoke.

Smoke from wildfires in Quebec, Canada shrouds New York City ( / CC BY 2.0)

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In case you’re new around here, the Weekly Wrap is our round up of stories that explain the problems oppressing people in cities and elevate the solutions bringing us closer to economic, environmental and social justice.

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Canadian Wildfire Smoke Reaches The Northeast

On Wednesday, New York City was covered in wildfire smoke that had wafted south from Quebec. It cast a hazy red tint to the sky and shrouded the view of lower Manhattan from the outer boroughs. The air quality was poor enough to be deemed “hazardous”; flights, baseball games and Broadway shows were canceled. Air Quality levels of 415 were recorded in Brooklyn; safe levels are considered around 50, Governor Kathy Hochul said in a press conference. Hochul announced that the state would be distributing 1 million N95 masks by Thursday, to be distributed at transit terminals and at parks around the five boroughs.

While some New Yorkers on Twitter responded positively to the move, others questioned why the governor hadn’t distributed more N95 masks for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “You mean this entire time we could have been making N95 masks available to people and just…weren’t?” one Twitter user wrote.

Air quality in other parts of the Northeast — including Washington D.C. and Philadelphia — also reached dangerous levels.

New York Passes Bill To Study Slavery In The State, And Make Recommendations For Reparations

State legislators in New York have passed a bill to establish a task force that will study reparations for its Black residents, the AP reports. The state assembly and senate passed the bill after debate within a matter of hours on Thursday. The commission would “examine the extent to which the federal and state government supported the institution of slavery,” the AP reports, and would “address persistent economic, political and educational disparities experienced by Black people in the state today.”

California also established a reparations task force, which released a long list of recommendations for remedying the state’s racial inequality, including cash payments to descendants of enslaved people. Those proposals are not binding and face an uncertain future in California. New York’s task force recommendations would also not be binding but legislators are hoping it will begin an important conversation. “New York provided the insurance for the slave industry; New York paid for many of the votes; New York bought much of the cotton,” Senator James Sanders, a co-sponsor of the legislation, told Politico.

This news brief has been updated to reflect that the New York passed this bill on Thursday.

Transit Advocates Stage Mock Funeral For BART System To Drum Up Funds

Advocates staged a mock funeral for the Bay Area Rapid Transit system last weekend in a bid to get Governor Gavin Newsom to add back $2 billion to the system in the state budget, Oaklandside reports. Newsom would need to add the funding back by June 15th in order to avoid service cuts. The transit system, like many across the country, faced revenue shortfalls due to ridership cratering during the pandemic. The campaign behind the rally warns that BART could face a “death spiral” when federal pandemic relief funding, which has been keeping the system above water, runs out in 2025.

Denver Museum To Close American Indian Hall

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science announced that it would be closing its North American Indian Cultures Hall, which has been up since 1978, due to ongoing concerns that the exhibit is racist, the Denver Post reports.

The hall will come down over the summer, and in the meantime, the museum installed a “healing statement,” which says that the museum “perpetuates racist stereotypes by portraying Indiginous people in dioramas as if they exist only in the past, using inaccurate names for sovereign nations (regardless of government recognition), and displaying their belongings without ongoing consent or respectful attribution.”

Housing Legislation Gets Sidelined In New York

In the last few days of New York’s legislative session, the Senate, House and Governor all blamed one another for not moving forward on a package of housing legislation. In a statement, the offices of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said the legislature reached an agreement on a dozen pieces of housing legislation and programs, including Good Cause, Housing Access Voucher Program, Right to Counsel, a tax incentive for new development, an affordable housing rehabilitation program and more. But according to the leaders of the House and Senate, “It was clear we could not come to an agreement with the Governor on this plan.”

Because the governor would likely veto the plan, the legislature’s leaders decided not to put it up for vote at all. In a response, Governor Hochul’s office said,“Absolutely nothing stood in the legislature’s way” and that no package had been introduced or voted on. It left many advocates pushing the legislature to call the Governor’s bluff and vote for the package despite the Governor’s apparent distaste for it. “Time to pass the package for her to review. Thanks,” former New York State Assemblymember Yuh-line Niou tweeted.

Curated by Deonna Anderson


  • A new study from the University of Leeds shows that the U.S. owes $80 trillion in climate reparations. Grist

  • Here’s how shutting off Wi-Fi after hours at a San Francisco has affected unhoused people. KQED

  • In the journal Nature, researchers reported that giving cash grants to poor families or individuals has led to fewer deaths among women and young children. New York Times

  • Despite fierce opposition, Atlanta City Council voted to approve Cop City, a $90 million, 85-acre police and fire department training center. The Guardian and The Intercept


  • Resource Generation has been hosting a series of conversations about transforming philanthropy. There are two more events throughout June about donor advised funds (June 14 at 7 p.m. Eastern), and reparations and regenerative philanthropy (June 20 at 7pm Eastern). Learn more about each of them and register here.

  • Boston Ujima Project hosts meetings (#UjimaWednesdays) dedicated to financial and political education, and its member working groups. Learn more about the summer lineup and register here.

  • The Democracy & Belonging Forum and the German Marshall Fund of the United States are having a conversation about the strengths and challenges of city governments pursuing anti-racist policies with civic leaders from Europe and the U.S. June 14 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. Learn more about the summer lineup and register here.

This article is part of The Weekly Wrap, a newsletter rounding up stories that explain the problems oppressing people in cities and elevate the solutions bringing us closer to economic, environmental and social justice. Click here to subscribe to The Weekly Wrap newsletter.

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Roshan Abraham is Next City's housing correspondent and a former Equitable Cities fellow. He is based in Queens. Follow him on Twitter at @roshantone.

Tags: public transportationclimate changehousing solutionsnew yorkreparationswildfires

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