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Cuomo’s ‘blame Trump’ story for nursing-home coverup doesn’t add up

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Cuomo's 'blame Trump' story for nursing-home coverup doesn't add up

To justify deceiving the world about the scale of the pandemic in New York’s nursing homes, Gov. Cuomo has turned to a familiar scapegoat: Donald Trump. The story doesn’t add up at all.

Cuomo’s administration recently and grudgingly admitted under court order that more than 15,000 residents of the state’s long-term care facilities died of COVID-19 over the past year — which is 6,000 more than the state had previously acknowledged.

In a private meeting on Wednesday, angry state legislators asked why this fact and others had been withheld from them and the public for so long. Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, answered: 

“President Trump turns this into a giant political football. . . . He starts tweeting that we killed everyone in nursing homes,” she said, according to a recording first obtained by The Post.

“He directs the Department of Justice to do an investigation into us. . . . And, basically, we froze, because then we were in a position where we weren’t sure if what we were going to give to the Department of Justice or what we give to you guys . . . was going to be used against us.” (Emphasis added.)

This statement — which DeRosa has confirmed to be accurate — is astonishing on many levels. She was effectively confessing to a months-long coverup involving both the governor’s office and the Health Department. She specifically cited concern about a federal investigation and political blowback. And she presented that as if it were a legitimate rationale for hiding public records from duly elected members of the Legislature, not to mention everyone else.

An even bigger problem: Her explanation doesn’t wash with the facts.

Goodness knows the former president can be blamed for a lot of things. Forcing Cuomo to lie is not among them.

To start with, DeRosa’s timeline makes no sense. The federal inquiry began Aug. 23, and Trump’s nursing home-related Twitter attack on Cuomo and other governors came in early September. 

By that time, Team Cuomo had been stonewalling questions about nursing home deaths for months — dating back to May, when the Health Department quietly started omitting the deaths of residents who were shifted to hospitals before passing, which turned out to be roughly one-third of the toll.

At an Aug. 3 legislative hearing, Health Commissioner Howard Zucker acknowledged having the additional data, said it needed checking for accuracy and promised to provide it to lawmakers as soon as possible. It wasn’t until three weeks later that the Justice Department opened a preliminary inquiry (not an investigation) involving fewer than 30 facilities.

Second, officials concerned about an investigation would be expected to keep quiet on the subject. Instead, Cuomo and Zucker repeatedly claimed that New York’s nursing-home death toll was proportionally among the lowest of any state’s — which they knew to be based on a low-ball count and therefore false.

Third, Team Cuomo showed no intention of coming clean even after Trump was voted out of office. They postponed answering an Aug. 3 Freedom of Information request from the Empire Center three times — most recently delaying their response to March 22, 2021, more than a year after the pandemic hit.

It was only when Attorney General Letitia James faulted the state’s nursing-home data that the Cuomo administration’s stonewall started crumbling. And it took a court victory by the Empire Center, and a judge’s order, to finally flush out the full truth on behalf of more than 15,000 long-term care residents who died — and 15,000 families who lost loved ones.

DeRosa’s implausible apology came Feb. 10, which was also the deadline for the state to comply with the court order. That’s probably no coincidence.

The bottom line: Cuomo and his administration deceived New Yorkers as long as they could and told the truth only when state Supreme Court Justice Kimberly O’Connor forced them to.

For most of the past year, it was the Cuomo administration — not Donald Trump — that withheld public records in violation of state law and in defiance of the state Legislature. 

If nothing else, DeRosa’s statement makes clear that the governor and his people did so intentionally and were at least partly motivated by protecting their own interests rather than the public health.

So what are the lawmakers in that meeting — and the rest of the Legislature — going to do about it?

Bill Hammond is senior fellow for health policy at the Empire Center.

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Opinion

Biden’s ‘infrastructure’ plan wages war on the suburban dream

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Biden’s ‘infrastructure’ plan wages war on the suburban dream

If you saved your money and bought a house in the suburbs, your investment and lifestyle may soon come under attack. The single biggest item in President Biden’s “infrastructure” bill, now being negotiated with Congress, is $213 billion he claims will be used to increase affordable housing. 

What he really wants is to put the federal government in charge of local zoning and to install apartment buildings throughout single-family-home neighborhoods.   

That $213 billion is nearly twice the spending on roads and bridges. It would change towns everywhere and, for many families, torpedo the American Dream of a house with a patch of lawn.

The Biden plan’s backers are hypocrites. Biden himself owns a four-acre lakefront home in upscale Greenville, Del., where there is absolutely no public housing, affordable housing or rentals that accept housing vouchers. And don’t expect any to be built next door to the Bidens.

Biden has always had a passion for stately homes and swanky addresses, even buying a 10,000-square-foot mansion that once belonged to the DuPont family, of 19th-century gunpowder wealth. Not exactly the sort of housing setup you’d associate with “Scranton Joe.”

Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, meanwhile, own a $5 million gated home on a street of expensive single-family homes in Brentwood, Calif. That’s privilege.  

These politicians love single-family zoning and exclusivity for themselves, but not for the rest of us. When Biden was vice president, Team Obama launched its Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing program in 2015 to ensure that every neighborhood includes housing for low-income buyers and renters and public transportation. Now, as president, Biden would massively expand such efforts.

The United States has a housing shortage. But the answer isn’t to have Washington, DC, strong-arming local decision-makers. That’s what Biden’s plan does. The bill creates a gigantic pot of taxpayer funds to hand out to towns that surrender self-rule. 

That’s a mistake. Local control is vital. Towns can take into account the availability of public transportation, school capacity and proximity to employment. Uncle Sam has no clue.

Advocates for federal control argue that if anyone can afford a neighborhood, everyone should be able to afford it. That means locating apartment clusters even way out on country roads. Bus routes and bus shelters would have to be built. Roads would have to be widened to accommodate traffic, and sewers and water lines would be needed. Say goodbye to country living.

Advocates for abolishing zoning mock suburbanites for worrying about home values. But for most people, their home is their biggest investment, and they waited years to afford it.

Local control allows them to be part of the solution. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is pushing to end single-family zoning, while her opponents warn that increasing density would strain schools and transportation and require cutting down the “tree canopy” over the city’s older neighborhoods. Atlantans will decide.  

Other communities are building in-town housing for young working people and seniors, while allowing homeowners to build accessory apartments for extended family or renters. The point is this: Washington doesn’t need to put its big thumb on the scales.  

Biden’s proposals to make housing affordable are laughable. He calls for “putting union building-trade workers to work” to “save families money.” Right, as if mandating union-only labor has ever been a money saver.

Biden is also proposing a first-time home buyer’s tax credit of up to $15,000 that buyers can receive when they purchase, rather than when they file taxes. Paying people to buy homes will push up housing prices, the same way federal college aid and loans have pushed up tuitions. Federal interventions have a way of backfiring.

Biden’s plan won’t expand the American Dream — but kill it.

Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York.

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If AP really didn’t know it shared space with Hamas, why trust its reporting?

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If AP really didn’t know it shared space with Hamas, why trust its reporting?

After an Israeli airstrike Saturday destroyed a high-rise office tower on the Gaza Strip, the Associated Press, which had offices there for 15 years, complained, claiming it had no idea the building was also home to Hamas.

If it’s true that AP was so unaware — and the evidence suggests it’s unlikely — how can anyone trust its reporting in the region?

The Israeli military ordered the 12-story al-Jalaa Tower, which hosts AP and Al Jazeera offices, evacuated an hour before the strike, saying it was being used by Hamas military intelligence. For a week, tensions between Israel and Hamas, the terrorist group that controls Gaza, have been at their highest since their 2014 conflict, with Hamas raining thousands of rockets into residential areas of the Jewish state.

Israel later shared some intelligence with the United States. “We showed them the smoking gun proving Hamas worked out of that building,” a source close to Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told the Jerusalem Post. “I understand they found the explanation satisfactory.”

Of course, we’ve known for years that, as the Israel Defense Forces put it, Hamas “intentionally locates its military assets in the hearts of civil populations,” even “hiding behind” media outlets and “using them as human shields.”

And AP knew that well, according to one account. “When Hamas’ leaders surveyed their assets before this summer’s round of fighting, they knew that among those assets was the international press. The AP staff in Gaza City would witness a rocket launch right beside their office, endangering reporters and other civilians nearby — and the AP wouldn’t report it,” says a 2014 Atlantic piece by Matti Friedman. Hamas militants would regularly “burst into the AP’s Gaza bureau and threaten the staff — and the AP wouldn’t report it.”

It seems that what AP doesn’t know — and doesn’t report — always favors Hamas over those the group terrorizes.

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No, US policing doesn’t trace its roots to heinous slave patrols

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No, US policing doesn’t trace its roots to heinous slave patrols

There’s a storyline in vogue among those who would defund the cops that claims that modern policing grew out of the vile squads that hunted runaway slaves. “From slave patrols to traffic stops. We can’t reform this,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) recently admonished.

It’s a slur, and a dangerous one: Modern police didn’t get their start as slave patrols, and saying so is just one more way activists stir up anger against law enforcement. Such ahistorical statements silence vital dialogue about police reform and decrease trust.

Most of the 18,000 US police agencies were founded after abolition, and many were explicitly modeled on modern concepts of policing invented by the British. And the officers in many major cities — including LA, Houston and Atlanta — are mainly minorities. To call the increasingly diverse ranks of the police some kind of modern slave-driving force is offensive and obscene.

Such falsehoods distract from a much more important — and daunting — challenge. In many US cities in 2021, there is an inherent tension between police and black citizens. In 2020, in New York City, over 63 percent of homicide suspects were black, as were 65 percent of homicide victims. Over 49 percent of rape suspects were black, as were over 40 percent of rape victims.

Over 53 percent of felonious-assault suspects were black, as were over 46 percent of the victims. Almost 66 percent of robbery suspects and 61 percent of grand-larceny suspects were black. Over half the suspects for petit larceny, misdemeanor criminal mischief, possession of stolen property, juvenile felony and misdemeanor offenses were black. Most staggering: Over 72 percent of shooting suspects and nearly 74 percent of victims were black.

Gotham’s population is 21.7 percent black.

A quick look at the numbers above makes clear that NYPD will be interacting with black citizens under tense conditions a massively disproportionate amount of time. Not because of history, but because of crime rates.

We may not have an explanation for why crime commission is so unequal among New Yorkers of different races. But one thing is clear: To combat a very real and very understandable perception that police are targeting blacks, police need to interact with minority New Yorkers in non-tense situations. Community policing in the past few decades was such a positive revolution partly because it pushed officers to be fixtures in the community, to know a neighborhood and its residents, to be familiar and trusted.

Community policing isn’t glamorous or a “reimagined” police force, but it’s a powerful way to tamp down the impression that cops are the enforcers of an oppressive system, rather than partners in maintaining public safety.

When Mayor Bill de Blasio published his “NYC Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative Draft Plan” in March, it began with this slavery narrative: “Racialized policing in New York City is a tragic part of that larger history of over 400 years of oppression, which runs from slave catching and kidnapping in the 19th century in a direct line through to more contemporary practices of unconstitutional stops and frisks of black and brown individuals.”

(There was no longer a single slave in New York City by the 1840 Census, and the NYPD wasn’t established until 1845, but why quibble?)

With truly gobstopping chutzpah the document continues: “We understand that we have not, nor can we, erase a 400-year legacy during one mayoralty, or as the result of one plan.” Putting aside the vainglory in thinking we looked to de Blasio to purge us of the stain of slavery, what does this mea culpa do to tackle the very current and difficult racial tensions around policing?

If the narrative we amplify is that the current NYPD, which is composed primarily of minorities, is just a few degrees of separation from slave hunters, will that increase trust? Politicians should be looking for ways to lower crime while improving the relationship between police and the community. Peddling historical lies isn’t the answer.

Hannah E. Meyers is director of the policing and public-safety initiative at the Manhattan Institute.

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