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When it comes to nursing homes, Andrew Cuomo is no Nelson Rockefeller

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When it comes to nursing homes, Andrew Cuomo is no Nelson Rockefeller

Just a few months ago, New York’s Emmy award-winning governor, Andrew Cuomo, appeared to be riding high. His audaciously titled “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic” was released to high praise from The Washington Post, which described it as an “impressive road map to dealing with the crisis.” 

Amazon Books made the tome an Editors’ Pick, intoning that Cuomo provided the leadership needed to address the coronavirus threat, “quickly becoming the standard-bearer of the organized response the country desperately needed.” 

The broad, if ill-informed, praise has recently turned into withering criticism, as it’s become clear that Cuomo lied about the number of victims sentenced by his decision to place patients suffering from coronavirus symptoms into New York’s nursing homes.

His prize-winning prose now blames everyone from nursing-home victims’ kin to his rival Mayor de Blasio. Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim says Cuomo threatened him after he, like the others, called for investigations into Cuomo’s actions.

Faced with criticism, Cuomo has doubled down on his self-praise. That’s a far cry from the path another New York governor, Nelson Rockefeller, took in the 1970s in the midst of another nursing-home scandal.

One of us, then-Assemblyman Andrew Stein, at the time led a two-year investigation into nursing-home corruption and mistreatment and met with the families of abused elders, leading to the creation of a special prosecutor. Rockefeller, a Republican, chose Stein, a Democrat, to head up a commission on the conditions of the elderly.

Like Cuomo, Rockefeller was possessed of a gargantuan ego, but he was secure in his own skin and able to learn from criticism. Together, Stein and Rockefeller improved nursing-home care. But Cuomo has refused to spend time with the victims’ families. He’s no Nelson Rockefeller.

The contrast goes further: Cuomo continually touted New York’s performance — claiming, despite evidence to the contrary, that nursing homes here have done better than those in most other states, while resisting requests for a complete death toll.

Yet state Attorney General Letitia James, a fellow Democrat, blew the whistle, reporting that Cuomo had sharply underestimated the death toll and that his decision to force COVID-positive patients into nursing homes might’ve pushed up fatalities. 

Cuomo responded by offering what had previously brought him success: two-hour “briefings” in which he asked and answered his own questions, plus cover from CNN, where his brother Chris Cuomo, an anchor, popped softball questions. The governor also once again trotted out his go-to, all-purpose explanation: Evil Orange Man made me do it.

Just days later, top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa played another variant of the Orange Man theme — but inadvertently spilled the beans: The state’s death numbers had to be minimized, she suggested, or the Trump people might use them against Cuomo & Co.

Cuomo squirmed: He wasn’t trying to cover up anything, he claimed. It’s just that the state was slow in getting his numbers out, leading to an “informational void” and unfair, unfounded speculation.

Had Cuomo chosen Rockefeller’s path, met with nursing-home families and done the honorable thing, he might’ve come clean and apologized for his errors. Yet in the years since Rockefeller, New York has become a one-party state run by Democrats, so Cuomo might not unreasonably assume he could tough it out — perhaps even eke out a fourth term.

Yet even if Cuomo isn’t held fully to account (as he wasn’t when former US Attorney Preet Bahara refused to indict him, despite considerable evidence of his involvement in the Buffalo Billions scandal), he’ll be nonetheless significantly weakened, assuming he manages to hold on to his office.

On Tuesday, nine Democratic members of the Assembly accused Cuomo of federal obstruction of justice in a letter seeking support to strip him of his COVID-19 emergency powers. There may be no justice for the nursing-home patients, but Cuomo’s other disastrous, ungrounded policies — such as those that needlessly keep restaurants shut — may be brought to a halt. 

The big losers, meanwhile, will be the mindless Democrats who’ve worshiped Cuomo like bobby-soxers.

Andrew Stein was chairman of New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller’s Nursing Home Commision in 1973 and 1974 and Democratic president of the City Council. Fred Siegel is a contributing editor of City Journal.

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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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