Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Migrant Crisis In NY Continues

The calendar says one thing and the temperatures another, but when grade schools and universities begin classes, county fairs wrap up. The Great New York State Fair in Syracuse closes and the horses at Saratoga Racecourse head to Aqueduct Raceway in Queens, and you know summer is over even though the calendar tells us that summer ends on September 22, between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur this year.


It appears there is one constant, however. The migrant asylum seeker crisis is still here.

After Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams said New York is a sanctuary state and city, respectively, in which and all who are escaping unlivable conditions in their home country may find shelter, New York now struggles with how to deal with a flood of many tens of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers. As these immigrants have been coming over the southern border and bused to New York from Texas, every county in New York is worried about how to afford this influx of unexpected residents.

“Over the past year, more than 100,000 asylum seekers have arrived in our state, resulting in an unprecedented humanitarian crisis,” Hochul said in a prepared statement. “We have provided enormous resources to support cities and counties – including securing $1.5 billion to provide shelter, National Guard troops, public health support, transit assistance, case management and legal services to asylum seekers. We have managed thus far without substantive support from Washington, despite the fact immigration is a national – and inherently federal – issue. But New York has shouldered this burden alone for too long, and this crisis is not slowing down.”

The sudden arrival of the foreigners has had an impact on the city of Albany. The much-ballyhooed kosher hotel, the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Albany, has been turned over to the asylum seekers who speak a myriad of languages, including Spanish, French and Urdu. The Google Translate app is very popular with the migrants as they try to communicate in English.

The 135-room, $8 million hotel closed its kosher breakfast nook and every room is filled with migrants sleeping on comfortable beds. Food is sent in by a government-contracted company that offers small portions to the residents who have no money to purchase food at nearby restaurants.

Hochul spent several days in Colorado during August doing who-knows-what, as well as in Virginia visiting her daughter and granddaughter. A few weeks ago, she met with White House officials, including the president’s chief-of-staff but not Biden himself as she made her appeal for additional money to properly take care of the migrants.

After the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, Hochul issued a news release.

“As New Yorkers know, securing expedited work authorization for asylum seekers and migrants has been and remains my top priority,” Hochul wrote last week. “It is the only way to help asylum seekers become self-sustaining, so they can move into permanent housing. I am especially pleased that the federal government has agreed to provide personnel, data and resources to identify the thousands of individuals in New York who are already eligible, but have not yet applied, for work authorization.

“This is a critical first step but make no mistake: it is not enough to fully address this crisis or provide the level of support that New Yorkers need and deserve. That is why in the days ahead I will continue working to secure expedited work authorization for even more individuals, expanded financial support for New York, and long-overdue immigration reforms. I am grateful to the White House for agreeing to continue these productive discussions and strengthening the partnership at all levels of government to respond to this crisis.”

Hochul also made it clear that local government leaders outside of the City of New York who do not want to accept migrants won’t have to deal with any retribution.

“In 1981, the City of New York and the Coalition for the Homeless signed an agreement that the city would provide shelter to anyone who seeks it,” Hochul said in a public address to all New Yorkers. “This is an agreement that does not apply to the state’s other 57 counties, which is one of the reasons we cannot and will not force other parts of our state to shelter migrants, nor are we going to be asking these migrants to move to other parts of the state against their will.”

Hochul then got political.

“If you’re represented by a Republican, please ask them to stop politicizing people’s lives, stop fighting President Biden’s comprehensive, smart solutions, and work together toward solving this,” Hochul continued. “If you’re represented by a Democrat, ask them to support my plan for more engagement and direct support from the Administration.”

After Hochul’s statewide address, state Republican leaders in the Senate and Assembly called for a special session to address this crisis.

“Since the beginning of this crisis, the Senate Republican Conference has been calling for action and solutions to ensure New Yorkers are protected in the midst of this unprecedented migrant crisis,” said Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt (R – North Tonawanda, Niagara County) in a prepared statement. “As it continues to cause chaos and uncertainty in communities throughout the state, I am joining my colleagues in urging the governor to call an extraordinary session of the Legislature so we can take action. As we have said from the beginning, this crisis is not going away any time soon and it is our responsibility to ensure that the hardworking taxpayers of New York State, who we represent, are protected.”

A similar sentiment was noted by the Assembly Republicans.

“The migrant crisis has spiraled out of control and New York’s elected representatives must take immediate action. The lack of transparency, clarity and leadership have been glaring, which is why 82 percent of New Yorkers recognize this crisis as a serious problem,” said Assembly Republican Leader Will Barclay (R – Pulaski, Oswego County).

“Assembly Republicans and our colleagues in the Senate have offered substantial proposals to establish guidelines and protect the people of New York. Letters to Joe Biden and meetings with White House staffers aren’t the solution. We need an immediate special session of the Legislature. With the lack of appropriate action coming from Washington D.C. and little reason to believe immediate help is on the way, the duly elected representatives of New York have a responsibility to take matters into their own hands.”

The attempt to force a special session was met with little fanfare from the Democrats, who control both houses of the legislature. The attempt seems to be dead on arrival until January of next year.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ administration is still grappling with the best way to confront the migrant crisis. There is still no solution for the New York City crisis, which is strangling financial resources in the Big Apple.

Rabbis and local religious leaders throughout the five boroughs have refused to comment on the situation to give a Jewish perspective about the asylum seeker crisis.


Political Placement of an Iconic Supreme Court Justice in Albany

The first Jewish woman was last month permanently ensconced on the historic Million Dollars Staircase at the state Capitol, more formally known as the Great Western Staircase.

Brooklyn-born Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the first Jewish woman carved into the Million Dollar Staircase, State Capitol, Albany. Her birth name is Joan Ruth Bader. Since there were others in her class named Joan, her mother suggested to the teacher that she call her daughter by her middle name Ruth to avoid confusion, and the name stuck for the rest of her life. In her later years, she was known as “the Notorious R.B.G.,” a moniker she later embraced. The Capitol carving depicts Ginsburg’s classic look with a lace collar, oversized glasses, and hair combed back, tied with a ribbon.

The new carving is that of Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Brooklyn native and graduate of Columbia University Law School.

Alongside Hochul at the unveiling were Jane Ginsburg, the justice’s daughter and a Columbia University law professor. Speaking on behalf of her brother James and the family, Ginsburg seemed pleased about how the carving turned out.

“My brother and I are deeply moved that our mother’s home state of New York has honored her by placing her image in the magnificent Western Staircase,” she said. “It is particularly fitting that she will appear close to John Jay, her great predecessor on the U.S. Supreme Court, whom she admired.”

Jay was the first chief justice of the United States (1789-1795) and the second governor of New York (1795-1801). Jay had previously served as the ambassador to Spain (1779-1782) and during his service he persuaded Spain to provide financial aid to the fledgling United States. He also served as a negotiator of the Treaty of Paris, where Britain officially recognized American independence, ending the Revolutionary War.

Born Clarissa Harlowe Barton in North Oxford, Massachusetts, Clara Barton had a limited connection to New York state but remained one of the few women who made a difference in health care domestically and overseas. Her links to New York include achieving a teacher’s certificate from the Dutchess County-based Clinton Liberal Institute in 1839 and becoming the first president of the American Red Cross based in Dansville, Livingston County, on August 22, 1881. She died at her Maryland home on April 12, 1912, at age 90 from pneumonia. She was inducted into the Seneca Falls, N.Y.-based Women’s Hall of Fame in 1973.

The Million Dollar Staircase is a monumental interior stair made of Corsehill sandstone from Scotland. Sculptors carved it in place during 14 years beginning in 1884. Ginsburg’s carving is the first addition to the center staircase in 125 years.

The historic staircase contains carved portraits of six other women from New York, none of whom are Jewish, all on the same level as Ginsburg’s carving. The six women are Molly Pitcher, a Revolutionary War soldier, Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Susan B. Anthony, a suffragist leader, Clara Barton and Elmina Spencer, two nurses during the Civil War, and Frances Willard, a temperance crusader.

“Capt. Mollie Pitcher” was a fictitious name, generally attributed by historians to be Margaret Cochran Corbin, who fought the British during the American Revolution at upper Manhattan’s Fort Washington, later known as Fort Tryon. The British ultimately won the Battle of Fort Washington, resulting in the surrender of Margaret and her comrades and the taking of the last American position in New York City. Her husband, John, was killed during the battle. As the equivalent of a wounded soldier, Margaret was released by the British on parole. She died on January 16, 1800, at the age of 48, in Highland Falls, Orange County, where the local historical society erected a historical marker. It reads: “To Captain Molly, in her honor.” Nowhere can it be found that Capt. Molly’s first name is spelled “Mollie” as is carved into the Million Dollar Staircase.

“Throughout her career, Ruth Bader Ginsburg served as a driving force for women’s rights and tirelessly fought against gender discrimination,” Hochul said. “As the first woman to be elected as governor of New York state, I join the ranks of millions of women inspired by Justice Ginsburg’s wisdom and courage. Her portrait’s presence in the Capitol will stand as a lasting reminder of her extraordinary legacy and New York state’s forefront position in the movements for women’s suffrage and rights.”

In addition to being the first Jewish woman carved onto the Million Dollar Staircase, Ginsburg was the first Jewish woman and the second woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, after Sandra Day O’Connor.

Although not devout, the Bader family belonged to East Midwood Jewish Center, a Conservative synagogue in Brooklyn, where Ginsburg learned tenets of the Jewish faith and gained familiarity with the Hebrew language. Starting as a camper from the age of four, she attended Camp Che-Na-Wah, a Jewish summer program at Lake Balfour near Minerva (Essex County), New York, where she was later a camp counselor until the age of eighteen.

Ginsburg was niftar on September 18, 2020, at the age of 87 after a valiant battle against pancreatic cancer.


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Marc Gronich is the owner and news director of Statewide News Service. He has been covering government and politics for 44 years, since the administration of Hugh Carey. He is an award-winning journalist. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press and his coverage about how Jewish life intersects with the happenings at the state Capitol appear weekly in the newspaper. You can reach Mr. Gronich at [email protected].